I reject the phrase “the new normal” because to me it means “the less-good-than-before.” That’s almost always the subtext when this phrase appears.
I reject it because, yes, I made adjustments after I had cancer. I’m not the same person I was before. But my “new normal” is AWESOME.
It’s awesome because I didn’t let others dictate how my future health would be. Because after I finished initial treatment, I balanced my vitamin, mineral and hormone levels. Because I repaired DNA damage and my radiated breast became soft again. Because the new dark spots that my dermatologist said would get worse have disappeared. Because the tingly irritation on my scar disappeared. Because a nodule disappeared. Because I feel great. Because I rarely get colds anymore. Because I’m in better shape. Because I put better fuel into my body, I drink better water to refresh my cells, I sleep better, I enjoy sex more, I enjoy life more, and I feel comfortable with myself for the first time ever.
Because I overcame. I learned that when I am pushed to the wall, I will always find a solution. It will be a solution that I am comfortable with, that I have researched, that feels right at a gut level and at a logical level. I learned, firsthand, that waiting for scientific studies is great when you have plenty of time. When it’s just you, right now, with the resources at your disposal, you do the best you can with what you have. And sometimes THAT IS GREAT. But it’s a decision that only you can make, in your moment.
Finding Peace – the Hart Part
Knowing that I will find a solution puts me at peace. And part of that solution — and this was the hardest part, the absolute hardest part because it didn’t involve any tests or supplements or nutritional-balancing — is to trust in the universe. This one’s a bigger leap of faith than all the others, a dive off a platform into… who knows?
But it’s the best part of the solution I found. Because now I can just breathe. I never could relax before. In my “old normal,” I’d sit on the couch to watch movies for a day and panic. My mind would conjure scenarios that would set me pacing around the room, worrying and worrying, until I created something for myself to do and never got to watch that movie. If I wasn’t producing, I couldn’t breathe. I got a lot done. But this was unhealthy. I never felt at ease. It was always, “What if? What if?”
Well, “what if” happened. (Yes, cancer was one of my what-if scenarios.) And I freaked out. I hated how I felt, how powerless and pathetic and pushed into decisions I felt not-right about, and I decided this was not going to be my future.
Less Stress, More Time
Now I am sometimes less productive. I don’t feel driven to stay up until 3am. I don’t produce, objectively, as much output as I did before. And sometimes that’s frustrating.
But the output I do produce is better thought-out, with a stronger foundation. The projects I take on make sense from a strategic perspective. I get more bang for my buck and have a better-balanced life.
I make time to eat real food instead of skipping meals. I try to sleep 7 hours a night. I nourish my relationships, because they are what’s important in the end, not how many hours I spent at work. I nourish my goals — the really important ones. I let the less-important ones drop by the wayside. I try to serial-task, not multi-task. Sometimes I really do just breathe, and relax. It takes time, but if it gives me more years on the earth, then I have gained time by doing less each day.
Never Give Up
Some things still suck. Because I allowed, against my better judgment, a sentinel node biopsy 1, I have trouble at high altitudes — and even not-so-high altitudes. Although I feel totally normal at sea level and have no problem lifting heavy things, exercising, taking hot baths/saunas or anything else, I notice a weird sensation in my arm above 1,000 feet (EDIT: 2,500 feet. Hurray!). I haven’t ski’ed in five years. I haven’t been to the mountains (EDIT: Yes, I have.). I wear compression sleeves and fingerless gloves when flying because I don’t want to risk lymphedema, though I bought black ones that look more ninja than medical.
I try to limit my flights per year to a reasonable number. I HATE this problem. It limits my life. But I also am 100% convinced that, ultimately, I will solve it. And when I do I will feel SO much better about myself than I ever did before. That’s just how I approach things.
I already found a few limited solutions. For now, here are the tools in my toolbox: Lymphdiaral drops, which work for me within a few minutes. Cleavers Tea. Indigo Drops if I need them.
My goal is not just to muddle along as a shadow of my former self, but to KICK ASS and project GRATITUDE, LOVE, and JOY. Every day, no matter how many days. That’s my “new normal” — my new life.
- This is a procedure where one or a few lymph nodes are removed to check if cancer has spread. I didn’t want to have one because the type of cancer I had almost never spreads. ↩