What is the 'New Normal'?

What is the new normal after you've been diagnosed with cancer and spent a year of your life, if not more, going through treatment and you've come out on the other side a little worse for the wear, but alive and seemingly in tact? Often you talk in clichés or read something that resonates and repeat it to yourself almost like a mantra: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."   

And while life after breast cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices, you discover that it's not even over when it's over. The day after my last chemotherapy wasn't the end, nor was the day after my last surgery. Instead, I began another leg of the journey. This one is all about adjusting to life as a breast cancer survivor. In many ways, it is a lot like the life I had before, but in other ways, it is very different. Call it the "new normal."

I'm not the girl I was pre-cancer, nor am I the girl I was during cancer – that all-time fighter with the brave face. But then I wonder – who am I? Who is this girl that remains?

For me, breast cancer changed my life in ways that lasted well after treatment ended. My hair is different, my body scarred. These are the physical changes, but there are other changes below the surface...thoughts that swirl in my mind. What can I do to minimize my risk of a recurrence or a second cancer diagnosis?  How can I fight lingering fatigue? Will I ever have a regular sex life again? These are just a few of the questions that nagged at me when I was making the transition from breast cancer treatment to breast cancer survival.

If I'm being completely candid, yes, thankfully my main anti-cancer treatment is over, but I'm still figuring out how to manage the hormonal side effects of having had my ovaries removed last May. While I have peace of mind for having reduced my cancer risk significantly, that came at a cost. I'm experiencing many "quality of life" side effects that are terribly uncomfortable and I'm really struggling to manage right now, but I know I'll get there. Cyclists often quote Greg LeMond who said, "It never gets easier, you just go faster."   Similarly, survivorship isn't always easy, but I am definitely stronger! 

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