Saturday, December 7, 2013

The New Normal

Recently I wrote about the "Now What?" after treatment and surgeries are over. I expected myself to be back to normal. What was I thinking? And what is normal anyway? I haven't written in over a month because I have really not been myself. Adjusting to Tamoxifen, instant menopause, lack of sleep, Christmas, and not being able to form sentences out loud or on computer have impaired my blogging abilities!

If the new normal means wearing granny panties, sporting a Max Headroom haircut, farting and snoring more than Frank Barone, weighing more than my husband (almost), acting like a morose teenager, and grunting every time I arise from a seated position, then yes, I am completely normal. 

Many of us go back to our routines, at least to some degree. We are at the grocery store, the gym (if we are lucky), our kids' activities, in many cases our jobs, family gatherings, housework, etc.  We look ok, for the most part. We put our makeup on every day so that we don't look sick or tired and we tend to make an extra effort than before to look presentable. The world sees us as highly or moderately functioning beings of society. We appear, on most accounts, OK. 

I'll give you a little hint though. We're not all OK.

We are bordering on wanting people to ask us how we are to getting aggravated if they do ask us how we are, because we just don't know how to answer honestly. It's a slippery slope and we are a moody bunch, sometimes. I personally try to be honest and tell the truth, without TMI and drama spilling out. We may feel awkward in social settings and making small talk can be very daunting.

I realized the New Normal is anything but and most of us hate the expression. It's kind of a slap in the face to some and they don't want to accept that things are never going to be the same. They don't want a New Normal. They want their Old Normal. It's not easy to deal with but as one wise sister always points out, "It is what it is". (It's funny how I've always hated that expression but it has never been more relevant to my life than it is now and I use it more and more!) So coming to accept the baggage that comes with breast cancer, even long after treatment is over is a process. I've come to accept many things "as is" and try not to put so much pressure on myself to be "back to normal". This only makes things harder, trust me.

I try to mindread those who have not travelled this road. I wonder if some look at cancer as a single event that simply occurred and now it's over. It's like when you have a party in your house. People come over, make a mess, and then leave. It's your job to get out the dust pan and toss all the crumbs into the trash. Then you carry on with daily life.

Well, cancer is certainly no party and the crumbs that are left behind keep showing up in places you didn't expect them to. As hard as you try to scoop them up, they keep sticking to the floor, or in the corners of your mind, haunting you when you least expect it. 

I've tried telling myself, "You need to put this entire experience behind you. You need to move forward". My mantra since my diagnosis was "Keep moving forward, don't look back." But this is not easy, especially since it's constantly in front of me.  If I had ass cancer, sure, it'd be easy to put it behind me! At times, I have completely avoided the bathroom mirror or I let it fog up so much that I couldn't see myself. And that was fine with me!

But now, things are changing and I no longer hide from myself. One of my fellow pink sisters named Natalie really expresses it best here and I'd like to credit her with helping me be able to look at myself with pride every day:

"When I look at my scars and my changed chest, now I feel pride and happiness. I am proud of all that I endured and I'm happy to be alive. Scars don't form on the dead....only the living. So now I've learned to look at them in a completely different way."

Well said, Natalie! You are helping me and so many other women by sharing this perspective. My hope is that all women who have been scarred by breast cancer will be able to see themselves as beautiful and strong survivors who have overcome and prevailed. You are all warriors and you are stronger than you think!

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