PALMETTO COMMUNITY – What didn’t kill Dietrich Lindsey made her more talkative.
There was a time when the 42-year-old mother of four would’ve described herself as a quiet person, but that was before February 2007, when she went for a routine checkup, and her doctor saw something she didn’t like.
“When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ that’s a scary word,” she said. “When I first was told, it scared me to death.”
After a referral or two and a second opinion, there was no doubting the reality of her situation. She had breast cancer.
“I came home and I lay down,” she said. “I remember thinking, this is the end of my life. Then I thought, No, you will fight this.”
Her first instinct was to keep all of that pain to herself.
“In the beginning, it was hard for me to talk about it,” she said, “but I would just cry, cry, cry.”
Her mother shared some advice that helped transform the way Lindsey thought about the illness and how she faced it.
“Mama said, ‘You need to let other people know so they can pray for you,'” Lindsey said.
Once she began talking about her diagnosis, she found out that cancer wasn’t a stranger in her family. Her aunt and grandmother had battled cancer, and two uncles had died of the disease.
“I never knew that,” she said. “None of that came out until people found out about mine.”
Lindsey’s niece, Shekee McCoy, said the decision to reach out to other people resulted in an overwhelming show of support from family, friends, church members and co-workers.
“People were calling her,” McCoy said. “She got willpower from them. They boosted her up.”
Lindsey had a lumpectomy in April 2007, then got a call that the cancer was still there, so she had a full mastectomy of her left breast in the same month.
After that, it was time for chemotherapy. Because she’d gotten her second opinion in Memphis, she decided to have her surgery and treatment there.
A family friend and two of her children accompanied her for an early chemo treatment. When it was finished, Lindsey didn’t feel too bad, so she decided to drive home on Highway 78.
That was a mistake.
“I went to sleep. The highway patrolman said it looked like my car flipped six times,” Lindsey said. “They treated us at the hospital, but nobody got hurt. Thank God. My friends and my family made sure I didn’t drive after that. I thought I could do it, but I learned fast.”
Lindsey decided to move her treatments to Tupelo, and she had more learning experiences while sitting in a recliner, hooked up to chemotherapy drugs.
“I have never been a talkative person, but I sat next to people in chemo, and we just sat there and told our stories,” Lindsey said. “I talked to other people who were going through it. It helped me to hear them, and I thought I could help other people who are diagnosed.”
There’s not much to do in those chemotherapy chairs, except for thinking and talking. A look around the room often revealed people who were clearly worse off than Lindsey.
“I saw this young … girl, really, is what she was, and she was in there with us,” Lindsey said. “I thought, My God, this is somebody’s child.”
She gave advice and comfort, and certainly received her share.
“One time, I was just crying and crying,” Lindsey said. “Then a lady asked me, ‘Baby, why are you crying?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t worry. It’s going to be OK.'”
Lindsey finished chemotherapy just before Thanksgiving in 2007. Now, she visits her doctor every three months for checkups. She’s not on any drugs, and she’s cancer-free.
But breast cancer is still on her mind. Lindsey is a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society. She visits newly diagnosed women and shares her story.
“I talk to them and encourage them up,” she said. “Once I go to the hospital to talk to them, I get a phone number so I can stay in touch.”
She talks about her experiences, but not all of them. During her fight with breast cancer, she learned that some things shouldn’t be said.
“One lady came up to me early on and said, ‘I can tell you right now that chemo is going to be something,'” she said. “I said, ‘Don’t tell me that right now.'”
Instead, Lindsey can talk about the support she received from her husband, Jeff Lindsey, who prayed with her on the morning before each chemotherapy session.
She can talk about her church family, who held a fundraising banquet to help her pay for treatment.
She also can talk about the woman who took her 2 a.m. phone call and directed her to Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Before breast cancer disrupted her life, Lindsey was a quiet woman. Now, she has a message that people in hard times need to hear.
“Trust in God. You’ve got to have your faith in God,” she said. “Just think positive. Keep your strength. Hold your head up. Stay away from the negative and stay positive.”
M. SCOTT MORRIS / NEMS Daily Journal