On March 13, 2012, Deirdre Norris-Gordon, then 45, got a “wake-up call”: Doctors told her she had stage 2 breast cancer. Within a month, she had undergone a double mastectomy and soon after, had begun 16-weeks of chemotherapy.
“Everything was tomorrow,” said the high school English teacher, now 50. “We were always holding off on doing things … wait until the kids get out of school, wait to take that trip to Spain, wait to buy that cabin on the lake,” she said. “At the moment I was going through this, it was clear to me that you have to seize the day. This is a temporary journey we’re on.”
Instead of focusing on the side effects of treatment, Deirdre, a mother of three, attempted to keep the family on an even keel. Two days after surgery, she attended her daughter’s lacrosse game and during chemotherapy, she helped pen her oldest son’s college application essay.
Humor was at the front of it all, she says, so that her children wouldn’t equate her diagnosis with a “death sentence.” I allowed my kids and family to make light of the situation,” she said, and also chuckled when her children, nieces and nephews poked fun at her painful post-surgery “T-rex” arms, referring to the small forearms of the prehistoric dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex that could not raise its arms above its head.
Five years later, her emotional and physical scars have healed. Although the experience took her down “many dark alleys,” she said, “down each one was a friendly face or loved one who was willing to carry me.”
A refrigerator magnet which reads “Emerge Better” holds special meaning for Deirdre, of Lynbrook. “Whatever attitude you take going through it (the cancer journey), is the same one you leave the journey with,” she said.