NEW NORMAL (Vol 2, No 3) Print Copy
NEW NORMAL (Vol 2, No 3) Print Copy
New Normal, Vol. 2 No. 3. Released: August 30th, 2017.
79 pages. Booklet style: 8.5" x 5.5"
In Service of Other Young Survivors by Felicia Mahone | Blessing in Disguise by Summer Adcock | The Bald Bombshell: A Photo Story by Shellie Long Kendrick | Self-Love Was the Hardest Thing to Learn by Renee Sendelbach | Intimacy and Nipplelessness by Jessica Semmel | In Search of a Workout That Doesn't Hurt My New Body by Emily-Kate Niskey | Rising From the Ashes with Dana Stewart and Marnie Rustemeyer | Living with MBC: My New Normal by Faith Kosmack
PLUS: Reader Stories | Standing Strong Yoga | The Immune System: What Is It? | Avocado Citrus Salad Recipe | Triple Citrus Cooler Recipe | Writing Prompt: A Strange Gift
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What They Really Mean When They Say “New Normal” words by April Johnson Stearns
You get through the treatments. You do the surgeries. You show up every day for weeks of radiation. And then you’re out. You’re done. Clean bill of health. Your oncologist and surgeon wish you well and say they’ll see you in several months. You go from a calendar full of doctor’s appointments and treatment dates to a blank slate. It’s like flying without a parachute. Suddenly, there are you, like a brand new baby out in the loud, bright, wonderful, terrible world.
It’s profoundly scary.
Every ache and pain is suspect. Your friends expect the old you but things are different now. It’s hard to explain. You look in the mirror and it’s hard to say exactly who’s looking back.
“You have to find your new normal.”
That’s what they – your doctors, the nurses, counselors -- say when you wonder how on earth to live this new post-cancer life. It’s remarkably helpful. Not.
Here’s the naked truth: brick by brick, day by day, that’s how you do it. It took decades to make the life you had before cancer. Stands to reason, however much it sucks, it might take a few years (or decades) to make a new life.
For me, my new normal is short hair where there used to be long curls. It’s a prosthetic breast, and grappling with infertility. It’s stubborn weight gain and a nearly nonexistent sex drive. It’s a fierce determination to never take my child for granted and a desire to use my time on this planet as I wish, doing the work that’s important to me. It’s about crafting my legacy. It’s a gut-wrenching survivors guilt as friends are diagnosed with a metastatic recurrence and others pass away.
The fear of recurrence is a big part of my post-cancer life. I get a migraine that lasts a bit longer than normal, hurts in a different way than normal, and I am chilled to the bone with fear that my HER2 cancer has metastasized to my brain. Did I do enough with my NED years? I wonder. No, the inevitable answer. On the other hand, a friend whose cancer recently did come back wrote about how a tiny part of her was relieved at the horrible scan results: no more wondering when the other shoe would drop.
In this issue of WILDFIRE, we bring you stories of how other survivors are doing it, building their own personal versions of post-cancer “normal.” Some have put cancer way behind them while others are learning to live with metastatic breast cancer.
In the Photo Story, Shellie Kendrick takes us on a journey through her closet of wigs, fake eyelashes, and rub-on eyebrows. Being bald for a third time, she knows a thing or two about rocking fake hair. After losing her large breasts, Jessica Semmel has found community with the #flataftermastectomy women while former bodybuilder, Emily-Kate Niskey, hasn’t so much, but worries that maybe she isn’t being the role model she should for other young survivors.
After a journey through Cancerland that is nine years and counting, Renee Sendelbach has finally found a method to help her put herself first; she calls it the Spoon Theory. After losing her mom and two aunts to breast cancer, Felicia Mahone initially ignored breast cancer. But then it caught up to her with her own diagnosis. Since then, she has found a tremendous amount of enrichment in her own life through volunteering and aiding other young survivors in her community in Georgia. And finally, Summer Adcock discovered a woman in herself after breast cancer that she wouldn’t trade for anything: “My unexpected encounter with breast cancer allowed me to bypass decades of trial and error, gleaning knowledge and insight about myself and others that most likely wouldn't have revealed itself until my old age, if ever.”
And if that wasn’t enough, 15 other young women survivors share “What New Normal Means to Me” in our Readers Stories column. These women range from their 20s to early 40s, from ER+ to HER2+ to Triple Positive to Triple Negative, from stage I to stage IV. Geographically they come to us from all over the map, from the US, Australia, Europe, and Asia (shout out to Mongolia!).
I feel confident you’ll see yourself in some of these women’s stories and experiences. There is no right or wrong way to go about life after cancer. It’s all just living – and as it turns out, that’s the one thing we all want more of.