In the hours after getting the results of my biopsy, I remember having the sense that I was suddenly a mutant. I was no longer normal. I was suddenly bombarded with big words I did not understand, and scary sounding treatments that I dreaded. And I wanted to go back to my ignorant, normal bliss of being healthy.
Over the next few months, I started coming to grips with the fact that I was on a year-long journey that had more downs than ups. And what helped me through, what sometimes drove me to just survive this hour, was the expectation that after it was all said and done, that I would get back to a normal life. I would go to work, putter in my yard, enjoy my hobbies, and travel the world again. On my worst night, when I was bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t face the prospect of getting out of bed the next morning for chemo #12, I gritted my teeth, told myself normal was just around the corner, and took care of business.
Which is why it was so frustrating when normal never materialized. As I finished chemo and navigated radiation, I started getting strength back. I began to exercise again. I grew hair. I went on a trip to celebrate life. But so many additional items were packed in my suitcase. The neuropathy in my feet, the anxiety, the chemo brain, the aching in my bones. I started looking for a new job and had such bad panic attacks that I delayed any searching for a few months. I developed lymphedema (swelling in my arm from lymph node removal). Life was still surreal six months after treatment ended. And I kept asking once again, where is my normal?
As I come up to the one year anniversary of my treatment conclusion, there are still ups and downs. I have developed nerve pain my arm, and the aches in my bones keep getting worse. I am plagued by continuing fatigue, and periods of anxiety I don’t ever wish on anyone else. But I found a temp job that I am loving, and I am slowly getting back to doing all the things I have missed at home. And I have come to the realization that there is no normal. Life is constantly changing, and what is normal one minute, is crazy the next. I am learning to embrace it. Because this is who I am, and I want to live for now. Not for one day when I am “normal.”