Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Saying goodbye to your old normal is necessary when you're faced with cancer. The new normal is a vitally important part of a cancer survivor's post diagnosis timeline.
I’ve almost forgotten the me I was before I had cancer. It’s hard to remember how different I was before having my breasts removed. There are some things that have stayed the same, but there are many things that are different. As hard as I try, I can’t really remember my old normal. Does that mean I’m not quite as normal as I used to be? Probably so.
Right after diagnosis, I’d keep hearing people talk about embracing your new normal. That was a term I’d never heard before and I wasn’t sure what it meant. Like a child, I felt naïve and uninformed, like everyone else knew a special secret that I wasn’t privy to. I watched and waited, expecting some epiphany to dawn on me, but none came. I guessed I’d have to figure it out on my own.
Weeks and months passed. I kept trying to figure out what this “new normal” was all about, and then one day it hit me. My old normal was forever gone. Nothing in my pre-cancer days would ever be the same again. Oh sure, I’d still have the same likes and dislikes, but things would be vastly different. Things would be more challenging. And they were.
This new normal was something that would take time to learn. There were physical limitations I’d need to accept. There were new emotions to process. Things were more complicated than they were in the past.
But after several years of learning about my new normal, it isn’t quite as new as it used to be anymore. In my daughter’s prophetic words, “It is what it is.” Life is different and I’ve learned to embrace it.
One thing I’ve learned about life, during my 60 years here on planet Earth, is that nothing ever stays the same. Everything is constantly changing and evolving. If we want to move and grow with those changes, we have to be willing to embrace change as it comes. Things can’t stay the same.
Some days, I’d like to step back into my old normal just to see what it feels like again. It might be nice to spend a few days there and reminisce. But then again, I don’t want to go back. I’ve learned too much in my period of “new normalhood.”
In my new normal, I’ve learned how blessed I am. I’ve learned that often, in the hard comes a valuable lesson. I’ve learned to be more about living in the moment. I’ve learned its OK to rest when I’m tired. My new normal has taught me I don’t need things to make me happy and that family and friends are to be treasured. But the most important lesson of all the ones I’ve learned is life is short.
My new normal isn’t quite as new as it used to be and that’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who’s really normal anyway? I can’t think of a single person I know who meets that criteria so I guess we’re all a little abnormal. Some of us just haven’t learned that fact yet.