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How many times have you thought that it would be so nice to get back to your normal life as a cancer survivor?
This week, I thought we could talk about the concept of a new normal. The idea is mentioned quite a bit to people living with cancer. I think that everyone has a variety of feelings and opinions about what a new normal should be.
Living with a diagnosis of cancer is like riding a rollercoaster. Each day might bring new feelings, worries and emotions — both positive and negative. Instead of constantly thinking about what life was like before your diagnosis of cancer, focus your energy on the present day.
If negative thoughts start creeping in, recognize them and then tuck them away, don't dwell long on them. When you have a good day, be aware of what was good about it, think about what makes you happy and brings you joy.
Create a new normal by living one day at a time ...
The idea is to find a new normal and embrace it. Don't look back, but remember what makes you happy and recognize any new limitations. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you create a new normal every day.
Follow me on Twitter at @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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I was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago, so have had many experiences with accepting the "new normal". When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014, I had already developed good coping strategies for accepting the new normal, and believe that I handled the surgery and radiation very well. However, I had never been really physically active; and am so flat chested, I still hardly notice the difference!!
I think that if I had worked a "physical' rather than a desk job, or if I had been really busty, I might not have accepted these new normals as easily as I have.
And that brings us to the first, and perhaps most important skill that needs to be developed when confronted with a new normal. "ACCEPTANCE" Now is the time to find The Serenity Prayer wherever you stuffed it away; and stick it up, bold and bright, somewhere where you will see it (and read it) many times each day.
Breathe deeply as you meditate with this prayer, allow your body and mind to relax, and welcome this new normal.
I'M PASSING A MARK OF 10 YEARS CANCER FREE. I WOULD LIKE TO READ SOME ARTICLES ABOUT THE LONG TERM SIDE EFFECTS OF CHEMO. I HAVE THYROID ISSUES, NO WAX IN MY EARS, AND NEUROPATHY IN MY FEET SO BAD, SOMETIMES I CAN HARDLY FEEL THEM.
been dx with advanced breast cancer feb 13 on chemo under gone 8 cycles already 8 more to go had a bad week so they put off this weeks chemo like liz walking from the lounge room to any room in the house is hard going some days only just able to return to driving myself around which is wonderful cant walk very far or very fast when i get there but i am getting my normal in some kinda order had to give up work till i can see how this ends friends and work mates have be great family (mother and brother ) can have unreal expectation and put undue pressure on at a time when i dont need it my sons have been a godsend they just accept the situation and help me get on with it we do our best on a daily basis
i do not like the side effects of chemo they make daily life hard i dont know how others end up running or jumping etc i feel very proud of my self when i can walk around my local supermarket from start to finish
so good luck to each and every one on this road coz geez we do need each other
It is a "new normal" for me because of the changes that seem permanent. I have metastatic colon cancer, in lungs and neck lymph nodes. I have severe fatigue from my chemo, and SVT episodes with my heart. It makes me feel bad when people are so positive, keep working and even run marathons. I feel like a failure, yet I can't walk from my couch to the kitchen somedays without having to sit on the floor to get my blood pressure back or I will pass out. I am half way through a 6 month chemo treatment, which is palliative, and I do feel okay during the second week of each cycle. I enjoy my patio gardening, reading, visitors, and on my good week going for drives with my husband and out for dinner. But I wish I could just be accepted for where I am at rather than compared to the "best" outcomes and people who are special. I find my acquaintances have an unrealistic expectation of cancer treatment nowadays, especially because off what they hear of the "super survivors." That is depressing at times, especially when there are so many cancer that don't have wonderful outcomes. We just don't hear from those people that much, sometimes I think it's because of the pressure to be wonderfully positive and carrying on as a "winner" and a "fighter." It's a nasty disease, and I don't feel like a warrior, just another person struggling with illness and a lesser quality of life. Can I just be that?
Thank you, Sheryl, for your very positive blog. Judith, I loved your post and appreciate the energy it gave me. El de Julieta en Argentina tambien. Just diagnosed with breast cancer (a month ago tomorrow), at the age of 31. 1st chemo was 2 weeks ago. Everything is happening so fast. I'm trying to be optimistic, but it is a daily struggle. A clairvoyant friend sent a card before the results of my biopsy were in. Maybe her message can help others to. She told me I would have to walk the path of the warrior: "Focus on hope and joy FERVENTLY as a warrior; choose courage over fear, as a warrior; choose positive, prayerful intention, as a warrior; laugh and love copiously every day."
I am working to make this my "new normal."
Hi Sheryl, Your blog about life after cancer diagnosis and treatment came at a perfect time for me. I am sad today about what I am unable to accomplish post surgery compared to presurgery and accepting my new normal. I am 2 years out from a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy. I was allergic to the chemotherapy, but needed that certain medicine for the 2 different types of breast cancer I had. I developed pneumonia and was on life support for several days. I have not bounced back to the person I was before treatment. Even after 2 years, I need to be reminded not to be so hard on myself because I am unable to do things I used to do. On a personal note, I am tired of hearing about cancer survivors who are now running marathons. People ask me why I don't do this. Congratulations to the runners who have accomplished such a mighty goal. But, my marathon is going to the store and putting away the groceries the same day..
I had a lumpectomy because of a breast cancer and then 35 radiation sessions 27 years ago. I then went on holidays to the beach with my husband. I had already sent my 2 children with my parents. I took care mot to be in the sun without a white shirt. I never thought about recurrence. I just went on as usual. Last october I was diagnosed a 2nd primary cancer stage 2. I had a mastectomy and 1&1/2 months later went on holidays to the beach for 15 days, though the oncologist was not too happy about that. There I sunbathed carefully(vitamin D), ate healthy and nutritious food, bathed in the sea and came back for a port & chemo as healthy as it's possible. I have already had 2 sessions of doxorubicine+ cyclophosphamide.Very little of my hair is left (I ordered a wig before going away. It's no WOW!, but it works)I walk briskly for an hour every day & go on with my normal activities. All my information is from Mayo Clinic, NationalCancer org.,American Heart Association,etc. which have been very helpful.Here in Argentina most doctors give you the briefest information. I trust God and have faith. What I found VERY USEFUL is to think positive and do whatever possible to have drugs have the least impact on your health. Exercise,10 minutes a day of sun exposing as much of the body as possible,a nourishing diet and self control on nausea or other possible effects are, I think, part of what let me be my normal self. I hope this can help somebody.
I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, went through chemotherapy treatment for 6mos. Being a type 1 diabetic since the age of 12 (now 50), was hard for me. Having 4 wonderful kids, a supportive husband along with 7 grand babies , I had a reason to live! My sweet husband forced me to eat, my 3 daughters forced me to go out and walk the mall, my son prayed for me daily and my grandbabies did not feel sorry for me and forced me to go outside and play with them, my sister accompanied me to get acupuncture for chemo support for the whole time, my friends visited me when I was too tired so that I can get up and talk to them. As you can see I forgot I had cancer because I
was too busy with my life definitely totally "normal". We
Seem to forget one important thing, we have no control over an illness, but with God ALL things are possible, He is in control. When you get up each morning, thank God and look at all you have, how far you have come, and ask youself, who has been in control of your life always! We got out of so many messes and sickness and we are still here to talk about it, learn from it and share our testimonies, is that great or what? Don't lose focus. It's obvious we are not done. Lets stop feeling sorry and live one day at a time ! When people or doctors ask me if I'm in remission, I say to them, I don't know what that is, but biblically , the bible says, I'm healed! God doesn't lie, He always keeps his promise, has always been there for us & lead th
I was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma cancer when I was 32.It took them 6 months to diagnose me.I got turned down for disability, ssi, things that I've paid into.I worked my whole life,except when I had my kids.they laughed at me.Can you believe that? Laughing at someone with Cancer.I was 2 credits short. They went by my work record, even though I am permanently disabled by my DR. I went thru seizures, 2 pulmonary emboli, radiation, stem-cell transplant,much more,& every month for the past 11yrs.I go to infusion for immune system support& bone strengthener.I have 11 broken vertebrae in my spine. The Drs I see are numerous, which is ridiculous. What happened to seeing 1 doctor for everything. Now i see an oncologist,pain management, shrink, lung dr., therapy, primary care physician. I hear from my Dr. to make MM a part of my life, not to consume it.How do I do that. When the calendar is blank, the next three months gets filled in less than a month. How do you make a New Normal??? Can someone please help me with this?? I have been in complete remission for 9 yrs.I have become closer to God,I was close before all this happened. My testimonies are other peoples strength,& I am positive. I just don't know how to have a normal life??? Thanks for any advice for a new normal.
Diagnosed with Stage IIA Breast Cancer March 27th,2012. Had a lumpectomy, chemo and reconstructive. Went to see a radiation oncologist before reconstructive and she told me if I had the reconstructive surgery and prolonged radiation that I was giving myself basically a death sentence. Asked for a referral for a second opinion. Next radiation oncologist said "no problem" in the delay. Before meeting with the 1st oncologist life was somewhat normal. Her opinion caused me alot of undue stress and anxiety. What I want to say is getting the best team you can find allows yourself to live everyday with hope and not fear and to push ahead. I look foward to each day and work on providing myself a positive outlook so that normal comes back into my life before I know it.
I was diagnosed with stage4 lung cancer 1 year ago, havnt smoked in23 years, eat healthy, never sick I am an attorney and work for myself. Started treatment last February and will continue "forever" every 21 days because there is no cure or stopping stage 4 lung cancer and no surgery for me available. I am out and about and havnt missed a day of work even through treatments all of this time. But I have lost business due to people in the community being afraid I am on my death bed and wont be able to work. I was doingjust fin e emotionally until the clinical trial drug I am on stopped working and the tumor is now growing again. Need to go on another drug. I feel like I was just diagnosed and got hit with a baseball bat again because I know new drugs mean new side effects and different quality of life. I am 55 years old, divorced for 18 years with 2 children 19 and 22 yrs old. I am only now finding it VERY difficult to be around and maintain friendships with people who are insensitive, like people that know you have lung cancer and ask if you have a light for their cigarette, or people who know your situation and tell you how stressed out they are about their husband who pays all of their bills and they dont have to work, just go to the gym. I am finding I am severing from many people and friendships because of my intolerance. I do not seek sympathy just cant listen to others complaints of trivial matters anymore when they dont know how lucky they are.
New Normal? Still have radiation to go. And then hormone therapy. So maybe I will feel differently later. I was also laid off from my job as soon as I was diagnosed. Am still struggling with neuropathy and range of motion which make things I formally enjoyed a struggle. Fatigue is my constant companion. When I shower or look in the mirror I no longer see an attractive middle aged woman, but a bald breastless scarred and tattooed (radiation)body that does not look or feel like me. I realize some of these changes are temporary or can be helped with plastic surgery, but some are permanent, too. I try to look at my blessings and be positive, but there is absolutely nothing normal about cancer. We need to find cures for the many kinds of cancer, and we should never settle until we have cures that allow for quality of life to be either maintained or at least restored. As individuals we may have to for the sake of our sanity accept lifelong side effects and disfigurements as a "new normal," but as a society we should never be satisfied that cancer patients and survivors have to settle for a lesser quality of life as normal.
My fellow survivors...my heart is with each and every one of you. I struggle day to day with the thoughts of who I am, and where I am going...it all changed in the blink of an eye with diagnosis of cancer. No matter what we are told, we fear, struggle to be brave for our loved ones, and we fight. Please feel my heart, I am fighting with you and against cancer for myself and all...that is my new normal.
While I do hope for a better new normal, I have come to realize, through support groups and therapy, that your "new normal" is not always what you choose, rather it is something that happens, or does not happen, to you. I know that part of this is due to limitations following surgery and also due to mood swings caused by hormone therapy, but you can only do so much, and then you finally have to accept who you are and also accept that there are some things you cannot change.
Thank you to all who have voiced both sides of this topic with me. I thought the topic was worth a discussion and still do because you are giving great feedback! Some do not want to hear about a "new normal", this I do understand. But as educators and providers, we need to know how to prepare or anticipate the needs of people living with cancer after treatment is over. As more people are living with cancer, your perspective is very important. Keep sharing with me, both positive and negative. One of the most popular blog discussions to date has been "How has cancer changed you?" This seems to be what you are trying to tell me. Cancer changes a person forever. Perhaps none of us really have an "old" or "new" normal, but instead a life path that is defined by each person's experience, pain, and joys as the days and years pass. While I don't have cancer, I have experienced my share of major health challenges in my life. Some very unexpected and not at all what I would have hoped for. I would never want readers to think that I have a magic wand or that my words will be the perfect fit for everyone. I just keep learning from all of you...
I can honestly say that I don't remember what life was like before I was diagnosed with lung cancer. It's a total blur to me. I'm scared all the time that it's going to come back. I don't ever think that I will be old normal or new normal ever again. Worse yet, is the fact that family and friends who have never experienced cancer, chemo, ct scan, blood work and the list goes on and on, I don't think they will ever really understand exactly what I feel. Very depressing and the after affects of chemo even months or years ago, are horrible, I still have chemo brain, my teeth are decaying and breaking, I have aches and pains that I never had before, dry eyes. The list goes on, so if you have a magic wand that can place me in the "new normal" please wave it over our heads.
I was diagnosed with Stage III Multiple Myeloma in July 2010 and went through a BMSCT at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona in April 2011. Some of your articles I find really helpful, but I find that I get annoyed everytime you put in an article about living with the "new normal".
It seems to me that anyone who encourages us to just get used to the "new normal" has not been through extensive chemotherapy and it's after effects. I feel it takes away the hope that I will ever be able to FEEL normal again. Without that hope - depression sets in.
I would rather push forward by doing all I can to FIGHT this cancer and try to stay as healthy as possible, with the hope that someday I will feel normal again. Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. (1John 4:4) My GOD is greater than this cancer and He can overcome!!
I find you suggestions of creating a new normal appropriate to everyone even if they don't have cancer. Living one day at a time is a mantra we should all strive to achieve.
My first breast cancer dx occured in August of 2010 -stage 1, lumpectomy and 33 radiation txs. I think I recovered well. In January 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in the other breast with a totally different type of cancer. Surgery adn 33 more radiation txs. Mamograms did not detect the cancer and I am still having episodes of anger toward the medical profession. I have a responsible job and am still at times taken aback at the rudeness of management. I am fortunately able to look at retirement. I have mood swings that surprise me and am working on what it is that that really makes me happy. I have good family support; so often I feel wiped out though. I wish all of you a sense of peace and hope.
I have to agree - there is nothing new or normal about the thought of gaining insight to "the new normal" after chemo and radiation (similar to Joanie's input). I am two years out from treatments that saved my life after twice misdiagnosed (eventual diagnosis Large B Cell Lymphoma). Unfortunately, side effects from treatments also changed my life. However, instead of an excuse as professionals seem to use, I prefer to challenge these effects and have done so since day one. I am unwilling to cave to the new normal - rather, it is only a detour to regaining my health and stamina. Cancer was a strong opponent, but I am much stronger, and continue to fight and win over the adversities. It would be much easier if the medical professionals were willing to hear of these effects and suggest alternatives for overcoming successfully. Instead I have had some tell me they have never heard "this" before, only to later recant and advise how horrible effects can be. I learned to depend on credible sites (Mayo Clinic and Web MD, etc.) and to rely on what my body is telling me. It got me to see the doctor for correct diagnosis(eventually), supported me through treatment options, and continues to be with me as I face daily quandaries. Trust lies within those you believe: from Winston Churchill,"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’. I chose the latter and strangely am better for it. Believe & Co
It's been 3yrs+ since my diagnosis and surgery for stage one invasive ductal cancer.I was fortunate that my tumor was less than 1/3 of an inch. My left breast's shape wasn't changed by having a lumpectomy; but only the cup size. I sometimes feel guilty that I have NOT suffered enough in my cancer journey like others. I had an easy time with radiation. Hot flashes have been my worst cancer side-effect. I've taken meds to reduce them with 2yrs of generic Tamoxifen and 7months of generic Arimidex.
If I did not attend weekly breast cancer support group meetings, I might not be living my life with a "new normal" attitude. Yes, I do take time for myself by reading,using my laptop, and I joined a gym for the 1st time ever.
My new motto: LIVE,LOVE,& LAUGH!
My Dear Cheryl,
I cannot tell you how I detest the phrase "new normal" - someone once commented in your newsletter that it was a disservice to talk aboout a "new normal" for somone who's had cancer w/ its myriad treatments. They further stated that they thought it made those who are healthy feel better when advising people about cancer and once faced with this diagnosis, we are never sure of our health again. I am a registered nurse who was diagnosed w/ rectal cancer 3 yrs ago - surgery with lymph node involvement - so subsequent radiation and chemo (with these I developed blood clots, had a systemic reaction to a chemo drug on my way out the door). All's well so far.
My family quickly learned not to use "new normal" around me or any of the other minimizing phrases.
I do appreciate your newsletters, but this one hit a nerve. God's blessings to all.
I am a Her2+ Breast Cancer survivor...in remission now for 3 years. Since reocurrence can be a constant threat, it is difficult to take things 1 day at a time. I look at myself everyday in the mirror and see a person I don't recognize starring back at me. My hair never came back right. I now suffer from lymphedema in my arm. The chemo drugs and steroids have all but killed my ability to make insulin, so now I'm Type 2 diabetic. With all this said, I feel I am a much stronger person spiritually, mentally, just not always physically. I remain "high" on life, drawing from the fabulous support of family. My little Maltese dog died last fall. She was my biggest help through the treatments. Then my mother passed just a couple of weeks later. It has been a rough road. But they say "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. Overall, I just feel blessed to be here, even though it's tough sometimes. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
All the doctors tell you about all the symptons 0f Ovbarian cancer but they forget to mention Vaginal bleeding aftermenopause, this was my only sympton and I had a very smart gynocologist who diagnosed me. I thank her everyday and say a p[rayer for her because it was in stage1. I have finished chemo and my blood work cam back fine.
Perhaps I've gone about things just that way, but by first learning of my conditions of epilepsy, migraine headaches, Tuberous Sclerosis on the brain and Islet Cell pancreatic cancer these last 3 1/2 years, with insight onto liver low density growth, lungs and kidneys--as well as medication and chemo.
I learned the hindrance to lead my life one day at a time within the limitations it imposed upon me. I've done the same with my cancer. Once learned, it's dropped, rather than speculated upon to cause worry, anxiety, or depression. I am 73 yr. old male.
Each day is a new day.
I was interested to read Sheryl's notes, but I disagree with the principle of living one day at a time: I suggest one decade at a time! I was 64 when I was diagnosed with ano-rectal cancer, and was left with a colostomy. I regarded it as an alternative way of disposing of bodily waste, and thought very little of it, and was horrified to discover that 20% of colostomists (or colostomates) considered that their lives had effectively come to an end. I joined with others, and was one of the founders of the Colostomy Association U.K.
I was astonished to find that with 20 years experience of teaching anatomy, and also training sports coaches, I had nurses, doctors, and consultants referring patients to me, and I responded by creating websites www.stomadata.com (English), www.stoma.fr (English & French), and www.stomie.org (French) to provide advice to colostomists, hernia sufferers, and those wishing to return to an active life after abdominal surgery. Being professionally a research scientist, I have been working ever since on techniques of colostomy management, and believe that my websites have a considerable amount to offer.
I moved to the south of France six years ago, and have extended my activities into teaching English, in French.
In all these things I am sustained by thoughts of my mother, who survived breast cancer twice, and was mending the kitchen light at the age of 89.
I have Stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 1 breast cancer since 2002 and Stage 4 since 2006. I find that my emotional life seems pretty normal and I don't worry or fret about cancer, however, my body has been permanently disabled from the cancer so it has strongly affected my physical life which I think can be harder sometimes -- not to mention the chronic pain which is hard to ignore. Anyway, just my thoughts.
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