Life Post-Chemo: The New Normal

It has become well known in cancer communities to speak about the “new normal” when referring to life post cancer. This is because is not really “normal” and, as I explained in my previous post, it is also not quite going back to who you used to be anymore.

The new normal came in for me with a lot of joy and energy. This is mainly given that I had spent so much time feeling shitty at home, fatigued and tried to avoid social interactions, which, if you know me well you’d know is very unlike me. Once I started to feel well, which also coincided with my birthday, I wanted to be everywhere and do everything. I had this huge appetite for living that I never really felt before. It was truly wonderful… until it wasn’t. In between the happiness and the gratitude for putting the treatment and the illness behind, I have experienced episodes of sadness, depression and sometimes a lot of built up frustration.

Experiencing difficulty adjusting back to normal life seems to be a recurrent struggle among cancer survivors of all ages. It is not spoken about very openly but it is a reality that is there, very palpable. I did not expect these feelings of inadequacy to be rushing in now. I honestly thought it would be a lot easier to simply go back to my normal life and put it all behind me. It has not been too easy at all. I understand the world very differently now, my perspective after having had this experience has completely changed and I am still trying to understand what all those shifts mean and how they will manifest in my reality.

The difficult part happens when you feel like no one around you quite understands what you’re going through and that moment of loneliness kicks in. It’s easy to feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by so much love simply because you don’t feel understood among those around you. In order to address that, I have begun a cancer recovery yoga workshop so I could be surrounded by others who understand the journey and where I will not feel the pressure to be anything but myself, in all my truth, with no judgments. I have also realized that I have to take it slow, listen to myself and accept my changes as they come. A lot of cancer survivors change houses, wardrobes, cut people out, move countries or change careers once they come to terms with their new normal. Some of these changes may seem a bit irrational and erratic to those around us, but it is how we cope with what no longer feels like it’s part of our new authentic self. Once you’ve seen a different side of life, one that is dark and at times hopeless, it is expected to want to make changes if you’re given a second chance at life – a new, healthy life.

Maybe I will make the same mistakes as before, maybe not. I don’t quite know yet. I have not really figured out the repercussions of all of these feelings. At the moment I just know that I am going through a big process of change and I have to accept that patiently. More or less I feel like I am watching myself be born again, from the physical – every hair growing out from my head and my face, all new and fresh, every cell regenerating my skin – to the emotional.

To the cancer care takers and those around us, be patient with us. I know, it’s not easy to understand someone who has gone through an emotional and physical battle if you haven’t, but be mindful of all these changes. Show us empathy, not sympathy. As strong as cancer made us, there are moments when we don’t feel so powerful and figuring out who I am again is definitely one of those moments for me. All I know for now is that like with everything else, I have to trust the process and know that the outcome will be worth the struggle. On that note I am sending a lot of love to every other person going through this struggle and a wave of gratitude to those who care for us while we’re going through it.

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