<< View All Contributors
x-button

Embracing My New Normal After Breast Cancer

I realized that my concept of normal has changed, but it isn't all bad.
PUBLISHED: JUNE 22, 2016
I was done with cancer. Chemo, check. Mastectomy, check. Reconstruction, check and check. I think people thought they were being helpful or hopeful as they told me that now it was time for my “new normal.” Secretly at first, then not so secretly as I wrote and talked about it, I hated that phrase. Not because I didn’t want to get used to the physical and emotional changes that would likely stay with me forever, but because I hated the idea that the “old normal” was gone. Accepting a new normal seemed to me like admitting that cancer was stronger than me.

I was adamant to carry on with my life without ever embracing that phrase, but now after three years, there are some things that seem so normal to me, I forget they’re not normal to most people. It’s like they’re a different kind of normal for me. Perhaps even a new normal…

There was the time when I had my first appointment with my new primary care physician. I figured it was about time that I consider I might have issues that aren’t really the concern of my oncologist. After we chatted for a moment, the nurse gave me a gown and told me to leave on my bra and underwear and to put on the gown opening in the back. Right! Normal people wear bras. I do have a couple that I could have worn if I’d thought about it, but it’s been ages since I’ve been to a normal doctor. I forgot that there were doctors that let you leave your bra on and don’t want the gown to open in the front!

Another time I listened to a big group of friends talking about people you would be surprised to know had tattoos, and I nearly chimed in, “I have two!” Luckily, I quickly realized it would be a great party conversation for the stay-at-home mom in a Lilly Pulitzer sweater to tell about youthful indiscretions involving a butterfly tramp stamp and a dolphin on her ankle. Reminding everyone that I had my breasts removed because of cancer and that the tats were only the clever recreation of nipples by a very talented tattoo artist might bring down the mood a little.

The funniest situation, to me, was the time I was at the dentist and he was telling me about some work that needed to be done. Apparently those metal fillings I got as a child don’t last forever. He commented that the same work needed to be done on both sides of my mouth. “You are remarkably symmetrical,” he told me. I nearly laughed out loud, even with his fingers all up in my grill, wondering if he had any idea how many conversations I had about symmetry with my plastic surgeon. Oh, I’m remarkably symmetrical, all right, but he might have been surprised by how amused I was at his comment.

I guess part of me still hates thinking that I can’t go back to the old normal-- the woman who didn’t instinctively pull the seatbelt away from her chest or say things like, “When I was bald…” But part of moving on and moving forward is letting the new become normal. In spite of how adamant I was, I have embraced my new normal without even realizing it.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
As a PhD student in tumor biology, Jamie Holloway survived long hours researching breast cancer in the labs of Georgetown University. Ten years later, after being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, she survived that too. Now with no evidence of disease, she shares a patient's perspective with scientists and clinicians as a breast cancer research advocate. A wife, mother, runner, and lipstick addict, she shares her story from the perspective of both a patient and a scientist.
The Best Cancer Blogs of the Year - 2017
 
CURE wants to hear from you! We are inviting you to Share Your Story with the readers of CURE. Submit your personal experience with cancer by visiting Share Your Story
 
Not yet receiving CURE in your mailbox? Sign up to receive CURE Magazine by visiting GetCureNow.com
x
//For side ad protocol