Thursday, November 15, 2007

The new normal

You know. I had cancer.
(whooooaaaaa...i know, i know, you weren't expecting that one.)
I remember a couple months ago reading in a book how alot of 'loved ones' of a person who has a chronic or life-threatening illness usually want and/or expect that person to get back to normal after treatment is done.
Or at least get back to what they knew the person as before.
And I'm sure the patient would love to. It's so difficult for others to understand, and imagine, how much you just cant' do that.
if you lose an arm, you don't just go back to the same self you were before you lost that arm. And for the most part, I'd imagine people around you understand that you are changed. permanently.
You'll never do a handstand again. You'll never juggle again. You'll never clap your hands again.
(hehehehe...alright. Now I'm just sorta being silly.)
But that being said, it's so hard to relay to someone who has not gone through what you have, why you cannot ever be the same, or go back to normal. I'm speaking more specifically of people who may not have lost an arm, but who still fought a good fight nonetheless. People who are permanently changed, just maybe not in such an outward obvious way.
your life was turned upside down and inside out, there is no more 'normal'. Thats part of the whole process of illness I think. You have to grieve for yourself, and mourn the loss of your old self. And it's quite a different thing from the sappy sob-fest pity parties you can go through when you're first diagnosed, or when you're struggling to understand a diagnosis, or when you're faced with horrible new information.
You have to grieve for yourself in knowing that, while you can and will survive this, you will never be the same.
Even if you get through treatment, and it leaves you with no physical outward side effects. Even if you're given a squeaky clean bill of health. Even if you didn't suffer all that much with whatever treatments they gave you. The reason you'll never go back to 'normal' is regardless of how much you'd like to forget that you just came face to face with your own mortality. Regardless of how much you want to act like you can pick right back up where you left off. There is always a nagging voice. The persistant anxiety of the 'what-if'. The unrelenting fear of something coming back, or of you missing some important signal.
But those around you. Those loved ones who want nothing more in the world than to see you as you were before it all started...they can't read your mind. They can't see your feelings. They have their own worries. And their own anxieties. Much of it they will probably never share with you for fear of upsetting you, or stressing you. (as if you don't obsess over it as much if not more than they do).
But they can't feel the same things that you are. So they want and hope and wait for things to go back to 'normal'. It's the best of intentions really.
And that maybe why it's so frustrating when you realize that you can't go back to 'normal'. You want it as much as they do.
I spent lots of times going back and forth, debating with myself whether I want to be one of those people who talks about, and uses, and perpetuates what they went through for ages. Whether it was just me dragging it out, and why I wasn't just back to my old self. I debated with myself why I was still affected by it, even though for all intents and purposes, it was 'over'. What was wrong with me? Why is it something I still think about on a daily...sometimes hourly basis? Shouldn't it be more and more of an afterthought every day that passes? Would people get tired of hearing about some sorta cancer-related thing from me all the time?
I had to finally make the decision that I just couldn't go on and forget about it. I am not crippled by it, but it does play a large part in my life. Even now. Now that the incisions have healed over, that follow ups have come and gone, that a routine has been settled into, it still is a major player for me every day.
So I may not ever be normal. But depending on who you ask, I never was in the first place.
And even though I won't ever be normal, I most certainly can get to the 'new normal'. The 'new normal' that includes all the ways in which I have been affected by cancer.


  1. I feel completely like you...I am stage 4 colon cancer...on daily chemo...have new spots on my lungs now...but life goes on...I do not talk about the cancer much to anyone, but it is on my mind all the time..that is the biggest part of having cancer that I well girl...and you are far from boring! Sue

  2. Although I didn't have colon cancer, your recent post totally sums up my life right now! Thank you for that, I wish we could just send a memo out to everyone that knows us and will even come in contact with us - it's frustrating to have people think you're fine and just being lazy!

    I hope you're well!


  3. As Megan said, amen. I would have liked to have wrote what you did...

  4. Thank you, Becca. My husband and both of my kids have FAP and I often feel like I just don't get it. You are a beautifully articulate young lady.

  5. I've just spent the last hour reading your blog. You crack me up and inspire me. I don't have nor have I ever had cancer. I have Behcet's and went 3 hard years undiagnosed. I'm still struggling to find the new me. Struggling with getting insurance to pay for my meds so they can quit jerking me up and down the prednisone which changes my personality along with my pain. People don't understand because "you look fine" it's a constant companion that I can't seem to shed. You shared your thoughts and gave words to my own. Wishing you all the best and strength to fight this second round, HUGS!

  6. Thanks for writing this.