Feeling "Back to Normal"

Last Modified: July 8, 2010

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Friends and family say "it must be nice to be getting back to normal," but I don't really feel "normal" after surviving cancer and treatment. Do others experience these feelings?

Answer

Rodney N. Warner, JD, Staff Attorney at The Legal Clinic for the Disabled, responds:

As they say in Wisconsin, you betcha. You’re not normal, you’re better than normal. You’re alive after dealing with a disease that kills 560,000 Americans every year. It’s OK not to be "normal", whatever that means. Who is "normal", anyways? You can say, I’m not sure I feel normal, but I do feel better. Our lives are based on our experiences, and we base our perception of the present and future on what’s gone before. Your frame of reference has changed, given your cancer experience. You are who you are, "normal" or not. If you’ve gotten through cancer, you can get through not having cancer.

Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Medical Oncology Educational Content Specialist, responds:

You will see that life after cancer treatment will become a different kind of "normal" and you will need to settle in to your "new normal". Any cancer survivor will tell you, things have changed, and so has the definition of "normal". Many survivors say they look at life differently, they don't take things for granted and don't sweat the small stuff. A cancer diagnosis changes you as a person, something people around you may not fully understand. It may be helpful to join a group of survivors, either formally (in a support group) or informally (gather a few folks you have met along the way). Email and the Internet have created a wonderful support for all sorts of concerns, and survivorship is no different. Visit the Association of Cancer Online Resources to find an email group that fits your needs or search the Internet for cancer survivor support. Many cancer centers and advocacy organizations offer support groups for survivors to address their specific concerns after therapy. No one understands this time better than someone who has been there, and this support can be very valuable.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Cancer Survivorship Webchat. View the entire transcript on survivorship.