There is no “New Normal”

_McRobbie_Cover_FINAL-KINDLE_wquoteThings have been exciting as of late.  My book launched on March 11, 2015 — and the launch was a huge success.  I feel so blessed and so grateful for all the support and love that’s been poured out to me in the 5 days since my book went live.  If you’ve read it already … thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.

If you haven’t – or didn’t even know I was writing a book … then I say, “GET THEE TO AMAZON.COM!”  There’s an e-book and a paperback, so no excuses.  🙂

Anyhow – that’s not what I want to write about  … which is a surprise because I’ve been everything book for the last few weeks.  But not today.  Today, the excitement was drowned in old fears.  Today, I made new realizations that I want to share with you.

This morning I went to see my plastic surgeon for my 3 month follow-up.  I woke up with a low grade panic underlying everything.  What would he say?  What would I say?  Will I ever be normal?!  There’s something about going to see a doctor, since my cancer diagnosis, that turns everything upside down.  Even if it’s a “good” appointment or one that I’ve known about for months.

Sitting in the waiting room, I began to calm down.  Their office is nice and quiet and familiar now.  When I saw the doctor, we discussed how I was healing from the first phase of reconstruction.  We talked about how I’m STILL healing 3 months later; the thumb sized gaping hole in my breast is now a “pinprick” thankfully.  He said, that’s “normal.”  I don’t know his definition of normal – but taking 3 months for skin to heal doesn’t fit within my definition of normal.

Then, we talked about “phase 2” of my reconstruction surgery; the part that the doctor’s office very clinically calls “symmetry surgery.”  This is when the doctor goes in and does his best work – the work designed to give me a normal look. What does he consider “normal?” I can’t help but think that I will never look normal. Normal, to me, is my body before cancer. I won’t ever have that back.

Don’t get me wrong. My medical team did wonders. Up until this point, all the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation … they were all designed to rid me of cancer and give me some semblance of life back.  In all those appointments we talked about the physical maladies that come along with cancer.  “GET IT OUT” was the game plan.  My team did that as best as they could.  I have no regrets.

But now?  Now is where the psychological mess comes into play.  Now I have to reorder my thinking, putting it back together onto the organized bookshelves in my mind. It’s a slow, methodical process because my thoughts are strewn asunder … like a library after a hurricane.  Yesterday I was SO ANGRY that my hair wouldn’t lay the way I like.  I mean, really?  It’s just hair. Or so people tell me. But it’s so much more than that to me.  It’s a constant reminder that things are not as they were — and they never will be.  That I’m not normal.

A good friend, who is also a cancer survivor, tells me that she hates the term “The New Normal.”  I agree with her.  If you do a Google search on “new normal” and “cancer” you get a bunch of hits for articles purporting to help survivors reclaim their life.  The sentiment is nice.  It really is.  And I hate to be the contrarian, but …

You can’t reclaim your life after cancer.

Nothing will ever be the same. NOTHING. The phrase “New Normal” evokes the feeling that some things will go back to the way they were.  But they won’t.  They can’t.  After cancer, your life is marked by difference.  Not normal.  And I think accepting that is the quickest way to get through the fear and the panic and the anger and, yes, the mourning.

That’s not to say that things are going to suck forever.  Quite the opposite.  I’ve already had some incredibly happy and wonderful times since the cloud of cancer has been lifted from me and my family (cue last week).  But I don’t call my life the “New Normal.”  I’m not looking to create a “New Normal.”  Screw normal.  Normal or abnormal, well, it’s all just living, isn’t it?! So, I wish you as much normality or abnormality as you can handle.  Then, I’ll have what you’re having.

header photo courtesy of Christa Gallopolous

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