By Yvonne

Yvonne Nydigger - My Knight Cancer Survivorship StoryNo one chooses a cancer facility beforehand - why would you? But when I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, everything went into a state of shock. My primary care physician recommended OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and as fate would have it, they were able to get me in the next day. Within my first few minutes there, I knew this was the program for me.

Over the next two years I went through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, radiation and reconstructive surgery.  Through it all, my team of doctors were incredible. They saved my life. But my OHSU team didn’t stop with them. They lead the charge, but it was the extended circle of nurses, staff, even the valet who parked my car, who made my journey survivable. It’s an amazing symphony of people. I felt like there was always someone there who cared.

When I was going through my treatment, I tried to be a model patient: positive, in control. But after treatment ended, I felt oddly adrift. I experienced what I now know was post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I found myself depressed and confused. I didn’t realize what was happening to me.  People would assume that I was relieved to be finished with treatment, but I just couldn’t wholly embrace that emotion.

I took the opportunity to go to one of Susan Hedlund’s survivorship weekends. It turned my life around. I left for that weekend retreat anxious, but returned home with a new sense of balance. Later, I shared with Susan my desire to provide a voice for other patients, like myself, dealing with these issues. Since then I’ve shared my journey at luncheons and fundraisers as the Survivorship Program at OHSU has grown.

OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Survivorship Program has been life-altering for many patients. As we step into this phase of recovery, most people know they need help but sometimes don’t know what that help is. Identifying these needs is a critical step in surviving cancer or any life-threatening illness. It’s so important to have opportunities that are informational, proactive and life affirming. OHSU is helping make that happen.

The Gentle Yoga program, offered to patients throughout their cancer journey, continues to make an important difference in my personal survivorship.  Prior to my cancer, I had never practiced yoga. Because of the lingering side effects of treatment, I was encouraged by my doctor to give this class a try. What a great decision that was!  The instructor of the class, Kimberly Carson, is simply a blessing to those she teaches. With great concern for our challenges and limitation, she has given us the gift of yoga. And with it comes invaluable tools to help us find our center and balance, both spiritually and physically. The Gentle Yoga program is helping me not only survive my cancer but thrive beyond it.

I’m in remission. My path is a positive one. Yes, it still has its challenges, but I’ve learned how to cope, with the help of my team at OHSU.