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‘New Normal’? No Thank You

Breast cancer has certainly been a journey, but I won’t refer to any part of it as my ‘new normal.’

Throughout my surgeries and my chemotherapy, family and friends, doctors and acquaintances, cancer resource   centers and websites, have thrown this ‘new normal’ term around as if it is somehow a phrase of encouragement.

It’s not. It’s one of resignation – one I refuse to make.

The following things – only a few of many — have happened to me over the years.  Not once did I feel the need to categorize the resulting life changes, as some sort of permanent attack on the person I know myself to be.

My self-concept has remained intact.

My life is still normal.

  • I had a baby.
  • My baby went through distinct stages of her life to become the amazing 20-year-old that she is today.
  • I gained 40 pounds; I lost 40 pounds.
  • I earned a bachelor’s degree raising a young child by myself.
  • I earned a graduate degree; I earned a second graduate degree.
  • I became a first time dog mom (My dogs are family).
  • I have been poor.
  • My first husband abruptly left me.
  • I re-married and, as a result, lived an affluent lifestyle
  • I divorced a second time.
  • I learned to live on MUCH less all over again.
  • I was in an emotionally abusive marriage; I am now not in an emotionally abusive relationship.
  • I was active in my church – I was not active in my church – I became active in my church again.
  • I have had best friends; I’ve lost best friends.
  • I moved from Indiana to Massachusetts; I moved from Massachusetts to Chicago.

Each change provided more depth to my view of life and to my character.  I realize some may view my list as minor, but my point is this: Life is fluid. It is dynamic – we never know what next year will bring.  We all spend our lives in the midst of adapting to change.

This Thursday, my surgeon will do my exchange surgery.  He will exchange the expanders placed during the reconstruction phase of my mastectomy, with my ‘permanent’ implants.  I will be ‘me’ – the same me I’ve always known, but with new breasts. Stronger after all of this, perhaps, but still the same woman with whom I grew up.

To call my life after breast cancer a ‘new normal’, is to suggest that a boundary of ‘no return’ has been crossed.  For me, it has not. I may have new concerns in connection with the cancer, but to have concerns about some part of life at any given point, is perfectly normal.

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