A New Normal: Adjusting to Life as a Cancer Survivor
For cancer survivors, life can be broken down into a two distinct time periods: Before Cancer (BC) and After Diagnosis (AD).
In your Before Cancer life, you go about with your normal daily routine, dealing with hassles, problems, conflicts, and other annoyances without thinking that you might be wasting time “sweating the small stuff” – because life looks to go on indefinitely, the little things are treated as BIG things, while the BIG things are often glossed over or paid little attention. The pumpkin your toddler paints right before dinner makes a huge mess but is utterly adorable; in Before Cancer life, you probably ignore the cuteness and obsess over the sloppy table you now have to clean up before you can feed your family.
After Diagnosis, however, a New Normal takes over. Suffering the pains and humiliation of surgery and treatment, you find that life is too finite, too precious to be wasted on complaining, criticizing, and crying… suddenly, that right-before-dinner arts-n-crafts project you child splashes on the table is just what you need to see, creation, beauty, innocence, potential. You love your job just a little more than you did Before Cancer (or you quit it if you don’t). Each kindness you receive through the physically and mentally grueling first months of your Life After Diagnosis seems greater than the one before. You survive, despite the dark times, through sheer grit and will, and the spirit to forge on, to fight for your life and all that is righteous, becomes ingrained in your psyche. This disposition becomes the New Normal for a cancer survivor.
Jealousy will rear its vicious head; people who witness your valiant struggle will envy your life’s successes. You can’t understand how anyone could be jealous of a cancer survivor. It’s likely that your surviving cancer wasn’t your only success; the spirit of the fight, the spirit of renewed drive has likely taken over other parts of your life, and those accomplishments are likely to be fodder for the insecurities of others. Embrace your haters, for they do not yet know the value of their own lives.
So, to my fellow survivors, I am humbled that you have joined me in this journey into the New Normal, the life you wouldn’t have led without cancer, the life you now embrace as a vital part of your human spirit.