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Adjusting to Cancer's "New Normal"

BY Stephanie J. Hammonds
PUBLISHED May 26, 2016
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
Once I began dealing with a cancer diagnosis, there was much to take into consideration, including how to adapt to how things are “now” rather than how they were “then.” I’m one of those folks who thought I had pretty good health, since I don’t smoke or drink and had no serious chronic problems. But when cancer comes along, that can all change. A life can change.

Treatments are numerous and often with various side effects, schedules that have to be met, prescriptions to obtain, testing taking up time and perhaps hours commuting to the place of treatment. Friends and relatives may be more necessary to us for help and support. There may be ongoing worry and concern about our health. This is what is called the “new normal”, adapting to a way of life that wasn’t planned on, wasn’t asked for and wasn’t on anyone’s bucket list.

Often, job schedules have to be modified, by part-time hours or telecommuting, especially on particularly challenging days. It may be necessary to depend on friends or neighbors, people we hadn’t previously counted on, to pick up children, help us with errands, housework, cooking, shopping or to offer moral support. Our “old” normal self may not have needed this extra help or accommodations in our professional lives. But now, we may find we have to spend more time resting, conserving energy or adapting to a totally different way of life, perhaps unable to do all the intensely mental or physical things we used to enjoy. This maybe only temporarily, but it is all part of our “new normal.” And yes, it often comes right through the door along with serious illness, including cancer.

I’ve heard several patients with cancer say, “I wish I could just back to being my old self. I wish I could go back to being who I was before I got this.”

I’m betting that a great percentage of us who have cancer feel the exact same way. And I know exactly what those statements mean. “I want to go back to being a person who doesn’t worry so much, fill my mind with serious thoughts, have so many appointments, so much uncertainty and so many concerns. I wish I didn’t have to think about illness and that I could come and go as I please and not think about treatment, tests and procedures. I wish I could just be my old self.”

But, for many of us, it's not possible to go back to the old self. It's a challenge to adjust and accept this new normal. For me, it's trying to accept my illness, not let the anxiety overwhelm me, and appreciate the good things I still do have: family and friends, and the medical team members who help me. Of course, some days are better than others. But then a new day comes along, and like thousands of others, I get up and try again.
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