Auburn woman journals her cancer journey

By: Natalie Otis, Journal Correspondent
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DeeDee Kindley of Auburn was 23 years old when she discovered that the horrible cough, reoccurring breathing problems, fatigue and headaches she had been experiencing for the better part of a month were linked to a rapidly growing tumor the size of a grapefruit wrapped around her young heart. Now, 17 years later, Kindley’s once tired eyes are bright as she tells her story of survival. In just four months back in 1991 she went from feeling sick, to getting the news she had cancer, to spending nine days in the hospital undergoing intense testing only to discover she had non-Hodgkin’s large cell lymphoma. Kindley describes her journey through this experience in a new book “Heart Knots — The Story of a True Survivor.” The book chronicles her “scary” times of feeling confused and alone, thoughts that she chronicled in a journal she kept during the experience, but also conveys an overall message about how to survive that is written for people fighting illness or people trying to understand how to better help people with cancer. Even from the beginning of her journey she said she knew she was meant to convey a message and to be an inspiration to others. “I decided within days of finding out I had cancer that I wasn’t going to go home and die,” she said. “I was going to fight it. You get a whole new perspective on life.” In her book she describes her life before cancer as feeling a bit flat. “I was unhappy with my life and my job,” she states in a letter to her doctor written in 1991. “Now, at least most days, I feel terrific.” Terrific, she says, because she gained an appreciation for the little things and a deeper understanding of the importance of the relationships she kept. According to the 41-year-old mother of two, with a desire to live, she says she summoned courage and strength from within her to confront emotionally and physically difficult circumstances while maintaining an unwavering belief in her ability to live through dangerous biopsies and the aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments that eventually got rid of her cancer. Kindley said the horrible experience helped steer her in a direction she was passionate about. Within days of being diagnosed with cancer, she says she found meaning and purpose. She has spent her career counseling people to uncover their true passion for life and helping others truly live their lives. This year’s publishing of “Heart Knots — The Story of a True Survivor” is the ultimate fulfillment of that endeavor that she started nearly two decades ago. “My answer to the ‘why me’ question that so many people ask when something like that happens was that I knew my story could help others,” she said. “I never had to cope with the ‘why me’ because I knew why me.” According to research by the American Cancer Society (ACA), the number of people in Kindley’s shoes is great. It is estimated that 66,120 men and women (35,450 men and 30,670 women) will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008 and of that 19,160 men and women will die. It is the fifth most common cancer in both men and women in this country (not counting skin cancers) which accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers. There is a bit of a mystery around the cancer. Since the 1970s, incidence rates for non-Hodgkin lymphoma have nearly doubled. Some of this increase is due to AIDS-related non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but for the most part the reason for the rise is not known. However, what is known is that in recent years, the increase in non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases has been mainly in women. Women like Kindley. Women Kindley wants to help. Her book is outlined in three parts including a section with questions for cancer patients to ask doctors, organizations that provide services to cancer patients at no cost and a series of fill-in-the-blank questions for cancer patients to ask themselves about their feelings and experiences. Her book is available at,, or by order at the local bookstore. Natalie Otis is a freelance writer. E-mail her at