The new normal and flashbacks

I’ve always really hated the expression – ‘the new normal’. When I was first diagnosed, I was often told ‘cancer changes you’, but I was also told that at some point I would come to understand what my ‘new normal’ was. For a long time I fought the idea. I don’t want a new normal, I want my old normal back!

I went to the gym today. For the first time since taxol, I was able to do a workout on the bike that actually made me sweat. It felt good. I did my strength training routine, and again, it felt good (other than the itchy abdominal pad that is currently on my belly to soak up any seepage from my open stomach wound). I want this good feeling to be my normal feeling.

As with any journey, as this phase comes to an end, I’m left with flashbacks from the past. With our Going East journey, the flashbacks were pleasant memories of places we visited on our journey, memories of people we met and food we ate. It was all good. With this journey, the memory that sticks in my mind the most, was not when I was told that I had cancer, but rather, the FaceTime conversation with my mother. Looking at her and bursting into tears, she asks me “is something wrong?”, and I have to say out loud for the first time “I have breast cancer”. The memory still brings tears to my eyes.

  • Becky


  • Me too, to your last statement. Glad your feeling better. Love you.

  • Becky, I too sometimes experience flashbacks. I was told in the car over my cell phone I had breast ductal carcinoma in situ and four of my kids were in the car. I was immediately sad because I knew what carcinoma was but I also got angry because I had to hold it together for my children. I couldn’t really hear the breast specialist either and I didn’t want to ask clarifying questions in front of my children. Then in my head the song “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger song” popped into my consciousness. Thank god I made it home safely driving an hour away and one of my daughters had a concert as soon as we got back. Sometimes there are good distractions even to my flashbacks. As time goes by the flashbacks get easier. I am grateful for my emotions though even today I am ready for a good cry. It is cathartic, going to watch a chic flic with my 16 yr old daughter. Today is purple day here in Woodstock ny and a special day to celebrate LIFE celebrate with us!!!

  • Agree with you Rebecca that ‘the new normal’ feels like such a cliche even though it does signify a new dimension to a person’s life when they have heavy-duty illness experiences. I try to think of it as a new dimension to my identity. Not a fun dimension where I’m fighting for a place to strong again and place for kindness.
    When I find myself becoming too comfortable or even fond sick-me I try to remind myself this all a bad vacation–except it really is (yuck!) the new normal. Is there a way to integrate sick-me into my now richer and more complex life to become complete again? Pretending it isn’t there doesn’t work. Dividing the healthy from the ill person seems a waste of the experience plus it feels like being accepting of illness could turn into a perpetual excuse. Would this be a topic for a week?
    Went for a walk this morning in the minus 17 Celsius Alberta winter that my chemo really, really doesn’t like. Like you have to rest more often on walks, I need to stop and burrow into my parka facing away from the wind, and then start up again. It’s harder to go out now than it was but I feel great about learning to adapt.

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