A diagnosis of cancer is an undeniable shock. What follows: tests, scans and treatment can pass in a blur. It can feel never-ending, and all at once, is over. Often though, the elation we may have expected to feel is strangely absent, or short-lived. Many people describe it as feeling like they have ‘fallen off a cliff.’ Friends, family and colleagues tell us how well we look, and ask when we are returning to work: ‘it’s all over now- back to normal!’ I have lost count of the number of people who have started our conversation with an apology for ‘not coping,’ as if they alone struggle towards acceptance.
What is normal? We heard throughout the pandemic about the ‘new normal’ we were facing collectively, and it’s often a phrase used when people finish cancer treatment. Some people find it helpful- the reassurance that there is something approximating the life they used to take for granted ahead. Others react angrily. Being asked to embrace an enforced ‘normal,’ to accept, without challenge what life now looks like? What?!
The bad news is, that with or without your buy-in, this new normal does become just that – normal. The good news is that you get to take the reins.
-How does your new normal feel?
-What else do you need to happen for this to feel ok?
-If you could fully embrace these changes and guarantee their success- what would this feel like? What would people see?
Very few people (I have certainly never met anyone) feel unaffected by a cancer diagnosis. We are all changed in some way. Just as we aren’t the same person we were a year ago, 5 years ago; life moves on. Giving yourself the time and space you need, along with a bit of patience- and who knows, the new normal might even be better than you could have imagined.