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Our 'New Normal' - a thought provoking article

arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 3,727

A friend of mine shared this recently .... Author unknown—

I had no idea how much cancer sucks.

The worst part of cancer is that so many people confuse it with so many illnesses like pneumonia or maybe even the sudden trauma of a broken hip. Although these diseases are acute, painful and sometimes dangerous, they are brief insults to the body and soul. Once the immediate danger is gone from the body, they usually do not recur or spread. You survive! You heal! They do not become a permanent burden in our minds or lives.  You go back to your normal way of life, with no real misgivings.

Cancer is not like that. Yes, it can be sudden, painful and debilitating. Yes, most of us survive and it is most unlikely that our cancer will return. BUT the difference is that our minds and our lives will never heal.

Cancer in remission does not leave.

The person we were before cancer ... will never be the person we are after cancer. Family and friends do not expect to see this change in us and are baffled as to why our lives will never get back to "normal". It is hard for all of us to accept that a cancer survivor is, and will somehow, always be a cancer patient.

First, there are the obvious and common physical effects on our body and soul. Aches and pains may persist for years. Scars and permanent surgical changes will always be there. Chemotherapy injuries such as loss of hearing, heart damage, vision or nerve damage may follow us. We may have slight shortness of breath or decreased endurance. Our skin, nails and hair may change. We may taste or smell things differently. Or altogether lose our appetite and enjoyment of food. Or worst - lose our sexual drive or satisfaction. Our memories may never be as sharp. And sleep may become erratic. Our innocence is taken away - we lose our 'soul'.

We may always be tired, even after a good night's sleep. We may become weak or our mental awareness may be lost. Loss of concentration may make it hard to work or enjoy something simple like a reading book, watching a movie or visiting with friends or maintain a job. We may not have the energy, the excitement. Life may be drained of fun, satisfaction or purpose.

Perhaps the inescapable change is that you may have the "never leaving, always just around the corner", deep mental pain, that reminds us that today or tomorrow, the cancer may return. Every discomfort we get will seem to be some kind of sign that cancer has come back. Something as simple as a winter's cold, a toothache, or heartburn after a spicy meal, can scream at us! It is very difficult to "put cancer behind you" when it is always in the back of your mind.

The clincher? None of this will be obvious to anyone else. No matter how much our family or medical caregivers try to empathise, to comfort, connect to understand - surviving cancer is a deeply changing and highly personal experience.

With that being said, the cancer transformation is different for each person and each patient. None of us were the same before the disease, and none of us experience this disease the same way.

There is no "NORMAL", it all becomes the "NEW NORMAL"

Cancer sucks, and keeps on sucking. Deep healing requires the understanding that things are not the same. 

It requires communication and space, counseling, support and patience. 

It requires time to find the person you have become. 

Author Unknown



  • lrb_03lrb_03 Member Posts: 1,189
    That says it all, no matter what type of cancer. 
    In saying that, my sister was a passenger in a car accident almost 2 years ago. Her life will probably never be the same, either. Maybe not the fear in the back of her mind, but everything else  :/
  • Kiwi AngelKiwi Angel Sydney, NSWMember Posts: 1,951
    @arpie it’s like this article was written about me!!
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,871
    @Kiwi Angel Me too.
  • Kiwi AngelKiwi Angel Sydney, NSWMember Posts: 1,951
    @kmakm absolutely sux doesn’t it!!!
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 3,727
    edited April 2019
    I think it will resonate with a lot of us.   I am in the process of on 'moving on' .... but .....

    Yep, it sux big time.
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,871
  • ddonddon Member Posts: 143
    I read this tonight and now I can’t stop crying. I can’t seem to get on top of my grief that my old life is gone and my body is damaged and the fear that this cancer is lurking in the dark waiting to rear it’s ugly head. I can’t let it out to anyone and I can’t see a future. 
    On here I feel at least like most people understand. 
  • ddonddon Member Posts: 143
    You are so right - thank you for your wise words. I know I am 6 months post diagnosis, tired at the end of chemo (2nd last one today) and trying to home school my kids, and wondering how I can get on top of my fears. I am well off compared to so many and I know that. My body has tolerated this very well overall I think but still the fear builds up and overwhelms me. I have spent 6 months putting it away for the day when I have to face it, telling myself that right now I am fine so stop worrying about it until the day comes when I am not fine. But this week I feel like I can’t put it away anymore. 
    Still, the sun has come up this morning, it’s a beautiful day and I will carry on, 
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 3,727
    Well said, @Afraser

    I am So sorry that it upset you so much @ddon - this is another subject that our medical team never mentions - the moving on - picking up the pieces & getting some joy back into your life.  It WILL happen ..... 

    I think the message is also to be vigilant, not paranoid - so make notes on any body changes (aches, pains, lumps & bumps) and let your Onc know so they are 'on record' and if anything lasts for longer than a couple of months - request an MRI/scan to 'get a pic' as of now, to compare with later on, if necessary.

    take care xxx
  • ddonddon Member Posts: 143
    Thanks arpie. The thought that, while ever I am alive, this fear will always be present overwhelms me. There is no banishing it, there will never be a time when it’s gone; I might suppress it and learn to live again but it’s going to be there, just below the surface, until I die. Not a peaceful thought. 
    Still, I know that right now I am just very tired and after 15 rounds of chemo it’s hard to feel bright and positive about anything except that in one weeks time I will have had the last round. 👏👏.  I am excited to grow some hair again. And spend Thursday’s doing something else instead of sitting in that chemo ward. 
  • Giovanna_BCNAGiovanna_BCNA Administrator, Staff, Member, Moderator Posts: 1,506
    Hello @ddon
    Thank you for posting how you are feeling.  It is tough and there are days that can be so overwhelming.  I know this sounds really trite but try to take one day at a time, thinking too far ahead can be very overwhelming.  If the fear is becoming all too consuming it might be a good idea to speak to someone, your breast care nurse, GP or even our calling our helpline on 1800 500 258.  Some people find it helpful to speak with a counselor who can help with some strategies for managing the fear and anxiety going forward.  Take care, all the best
  • ddonddon Member Posts: 143
    Thank you Giovanna. I have tried, since diagnosis, to just live for today and find the joy in it. I know that that is all anyone really has. And I have managed that pretty well until the last couple of weeks. But now that chemo - and my little safety bubble -  is coming to an end I just feel like I can’t get past the certainty in my inner self that it will be back soon and that will be the end. I hope I can overcome this fear and just live day by day again. I will talk with my GP if it gets too much. Thank you for your care. 
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,528
    While it may feel like you're all alone in the dark, the emotions you're going through are pretty common towards the end of active treatment.  I think that while there is something positive to do, we just get on with it.  The end of treatment can feel like freefalling into a deep dark hole.  It WILL get better but it's worth trying to talk to a professional counsellor who understands cancer to help with you regain your equilibrium.
  • ddonddon Member Posts: 143
    Thank you sister. That’s exactly how I feel. The nights are spent laying awake worrying and the days are spent so tired and trying to function. And pretending to my kids that all is well. I will be okay - I have much to be thankful for and a supportive family. Just struggling right now when everyone thinks I should be so happy to be finishing chemo, and I can’t explain why part of me is and part of me feels worse than I did at the very beginning. 
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