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Life Redefined: Finding Normal

Post Published: 31 May 2011
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Category: Column, Life Redefined, Thyroid Cancer in Young Adults Column
This post currently has 12 responses. Leave a comment

I frequently talk about how much I’ve changed since being diagnosed with cancer. And it’s true, I have changed so much. But this past weekend I started thinking about all of this change. I realized that whether I was diagnosed with cancer or not, change was inevitable. No matter what course my life has taken or will take, I am going to change. Sure, it’s not always going to be welcome, but it’s something I have to learn to accept.

Dealing with unwelcomed change is so much harder for me than dealing with welcomed change. Duh, Joanna. But seriously, dealing with unwelcomed change is a monumental task for me. This past weekend I had a bit of a breakthrough. A bunch of college friends and I spent the weekend together in the mountains. These friends were all people who knew me BEFORE cancer. In college, we were a pretty tight-knit group. Spending the weekend with these people was so restorative for me because a part of who I was pre-cancer was revived. Each and every one of us has changed since college, but we were able to hang out together like we always have, IN SPITE of change. That’s a big deal for me. I was reminded that even though I have dealt with so much unwelcomed change in the past few years, part of who I was pre-diagnosis is still alive. I was able to find a bit of the old normal and allow it to live alongside the new normal.

So now I need to figure out how to make sure I have more moments like I had over the weekend. I think if I can find more occasions where I see glimpses of my old self living in harmony with who I am today then I will actually feel like I’ve achieved a sense of normalcy in my life. Reconciling the differences between my old normal and my new normal is a difficult thing for me, but I know that doing so will allow me to move forward in life.

What do you think about all this normalcy talk? I would love to hear your feedback on the subject. How do you deal with your new normal? How do you achieve a sense of normalcy after being diagnosed with cancer? What works for you? I want to hear your tips and tricks on how you’re learning to accept who you are post-diagnosis.

Lots of love,

Joanna

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12 Responses to “Life Redefined: Finding Normal”

  1. Melissa Travis says:

    I’m so so glad to hear you write this. It is so big for me to remember at every stage of this that I am NOT MY ILLNESS. I am not my disease. I am not my treatment. And I am not the boxes that people put around me. I am not the loss. And I am not the pain. These things TOUCH me but they are NOT ME.

    You are still you. I am still me. We have simply been given more insight (and dealt with more).

    Brilliant post. And powerful.
    xx
    Melissa

    • YES–we are not our diseases. We are not cancer. Cancer has changed me so much, but I am not cancer. And I cannot live in the constraints people put around me because I have cancer. BUT, I also have to remember not to put boxes around myself.

      Thank you!!

  2. Joanne Naso says:

    I am still trying to find my new normal 8 weeks post surgery. I try to be patient and kind with myself, but that is not always easy. The pre-“me” had boundless energy and I struggle to wrap my head around the overwhelming exhaustion that envelopes me. My husband’s comment, “You think being tired is a character flaw.” was eye-opening for me . . .I really did, and now have tried to shift my attitude, with some success. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The affinity created is invaluable!

    • Joanne, I absolutely love what your husband told you. He’s right, being tired isn’t a character flaw. I think that is a hard thing to realize, that the changes we endure as a result of disease are not flaws.

      I know how hard it is to unearth yourself when you have been smothered with so much hardship. Remember that we are here for you and will support you.

      xoxo

  3. Charlon Bruner says:

    It’s been 7 years and 5 months since my cancer diagnosis. I still struggle on bad days and seem to have it all figured out on good days (and all degrees in between on any given day). My biggest struggle is mental. I totally get in my own way. My former self could have cared less about what others think. The now me cares too much and can be quite paranoid. I’ve learned to recognize it as just that…I remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me and I push it down. It’s something I didn’t have to do before, but recognizing it as being paranoid proves that I’ve got a handle on my own life. I am in control and my illness is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. Thanx Joanna for writing this. It has helped me knowing that there’s a whole world of people feeling and living through similar situations. Dear Thyroid has been a huge part of my mental recovery!

    • Charlon, thank you so much for sharing your insight. The mental struggle is such a hard one to deal with and get past. Like you, I have both good and bad days. I love how you’ve taken control–so very empowering.

      Thanks for being a part of this community.

      xoxo

  4. Dear Thyroid says:

    Joanna;

    I’m very grateful that you had this experience, a breakthrough and you saw glimpses of your former self. Fleeting moments of our old selves resurfacing is, in my opinion such a remarkable feeling. Until you wrote it and so eloquently, I couldn’t put it into words.

    I hope you keep searching for those pieces of your former self to surface.

    Another point you made, “I realized that whether I was diagnosed with cancer or not, change was inevitable.” This resonates hard.

    Thank you.
    xo

    • I absolutely agree with you–those moments where we can see those traits of the person we used to be is amazing. I think it shows me that there is a part of me that will always be ME, that some things about who I am will always remain the same.

      xoxo

  5. Anna says:

    Joanna,

    Thank you. I guess, as time passes people forget. I know for me my husband and kids all act like nothing happened. In terms of friends, it’s been only a year and besides asking how I’m feeling every now and then, our times together are ‘just like old times’. The only one who has really changed is me. They complain, gossip, and laugh about the same stuff but sometimes I feel as if I’m having an out of body experience. I love feeling like my old self with family and friends but in reality I am different. They may not notice, but I know…it is my ‘new normal’ and I just push forward. In reality, everyone changes as they get older, our eyes were just opened sooner.

    xoxo
    Anna

    • Anna, I completely get that feeling of being the only variable in a sea of constants. I’ve been there and I remember feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb among my friends. I am different now. I have changed as a result of something I didn’t ask for. But I have also accepted that change was inevitable, regardless of what happened in my life. I know that my friends have changed over the past three years, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to focus on the changes in myself that I don’t like and wish I could give back.

      I think you’re right–our eyes were opened sooner.

      xoxo

  6. It is difficult to find a sense of normalcy after an “unwelcome change” comes into our lives. I really did like the old me! I miss the old me. For a few years I would look into the mirror and not even recognize the person looking back at me! It was like having to be re-introduced to my own self. Then wondering, am I to find a “new normal”? I am so happy for you! Being able to get a glimpse and feel of that prior self and life.

    • Lisa, THANK YOU! Yes yes yes–it’s like having to be re-introduced to my own self. You hit the nail on the head. Finding the new normal can be so HARD. But I’m glad to know that part of the old me is still there, that some things about who I am are always going to remain the same.

      xoxo

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