There is one line that repeats itself in many of the breast cancer books I have read which penetrated my heart: “You have to come up with a new definition of normal for your life.”
“New normal” means I can no longer put off that cruise I have always dreamed of going on, or the week long vacation on the beach with my g-babies, or telling my family and friends, “I love you.” “New normal” also means a calendar full of doctors appointments, blood test, and the occasional scan. It means less energy, but lets me indulge in the luxury of taking a mid-day nap. It means limiting your physical activity: lifting groceries, laundry, lifting g-babies, vacuuming, leaning over the bathtub to clean it.
It also means becoming more humble. Learning to let people help you, and living in the moment. Each moment has become more precious.
It’s easier to do the important things, like going to lunch with a friend, and let the unimportant things, like housework, go. Relationships with loved ones and friends become very important, and I have developed a deeper more personal relationship with God.
I read that breast cancer and its aftermath are like a broken mirror-once you have had it, your life never fits back in the slots the way it went before. I see the struggle differently. For me it was an enforced unburdening. I had to let go of a great deal that had to do with the material world, and pare down, in order to muster the energy to fight this disease.
Initially, I fought the “new normal.” I would think, I am only having breast cancer, a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, then hormonal theropy…this will be over quick, and I can get on with my life. And I can bet a lot of you thought the same thing. We can hope that breast cancer will just be a bump in the road, but in reality it is more like that really long, out of the way detour.
BC often stands for breast cancer, but for me it means “before cancer” – BC, I had a memory full of details, was a multi-tasking organizer, I was in charge at all times and my husband balanced me with his calm personality.
There are times when neither of us knows how to adjust the changes in me. With Tamoxifen making me physically ill and the insomnia making me irritable or leg and foot cramps waking me in the wee hours of the morning, every one is walking on eggshells, even me. During the week after surgery, my house was in the midst of a remodel, which pushed me back to work to get out of the noise and dust.
The “new normal” means to simplify, save energy for what matters most. Prioritize your schedule, and eliminate low priority, high energy projects. Delegate-let someone else do something you have always done before and learn to be satisfied with the results. Accepting the new normal is helping your family and friends understand and adjust to your new reality. You might have to sit everyone down and explain that you are not able to do the things you use to do. And if they become impatient with your forgetfulness, limitations, patiently remind them that this is the “new normal” for everyone.