Back to "Normal"
Not that I have a clue what "normal" means--either now or before cancer. For that matter, looking back at my life, I would be hard pressed to pick out a day or a month that was "normal." Does "normal" mean like most of the others or does it mean not crazy or something else entirely? Like most people my age, I have had wildly different periods of time. There were times when money was really tight, and I kept track of every dollar spent. There were times, when still living with my parents, that I had the equivalent of a mini-royal life when we moved around by private helicopter and were met by children bearing armloads of flowers. There was the time when we crouched and ran, hoping none of the nearby machine guns would be fired, during a coup in Saigon. There were also many later days of coping with full time work and cranky small children and too much laundry. And there is the current "normal" of never taking a day for granted and being so grateful for the daily rhythms of work and home and family and friends.
All of that is probably way off course as an introduction to this good interview with Dr Julia Rowland, from LBCC, about navigating ones' way back to life after breast cancer. I think I am influenced this morning by a long, dark, wet drive after work yesterday, arriving at our beloved Maine cottage very late, and then awakening (with not enough sleep) to fog over the water and the calls of many birds and the joy of being here.
So, here is the beginning and then a link to read more. It is worth a few minutes of your time.
September 2012 Ask the Expert:
Navigating Your New Normal
Julia H. Rowland, PhD
Question: What is the best way to deal with the lingering medical aftermath of chemotherapy treatments while trying to grasp your new normal?
Dr. Rowland: Just because a physician tells you that you are now disease-free, that there is no sign of cancer, does not mean that the illness experience is over. Many women find that they feel worse at the end of treatment than when they started their breast cancer journey.
The first step in finding your new normal is to realize that recovery takes time. Some of the side effects that develop during treatment, such as fatigue, pain, problems with sexual function and trouble with memory and concentration, may linger for weeks or even months after chemotherapy is completed. So finding your new normal will take a while.
Giving yourself time to heal is very important. It is often helpful to talk with your physician or medical team about what to expect in the first few months after treatment ends. The National Cancer Institute has an informative booklet called Life After Cancer (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment), which addresses this topic. It is part of our Facing Forward series, designed specifically for people ending their cancer treatments, and provides practical advice about how to manage the medical, psychological, social and practical concerns associated with "re-entry" into your new post-cancer life.
Question: What is the best way to deal with family/friends that seem to think you should be all better, even six months after treatment? Is there a statistical timeframe of when "better" should be?
Dr. Rowland: There is no "statistical" timeframe for recovery. Each woman is unique in her trajectory of return to wellness after cancer.
NOTE FROM HESTER: I think it takes at least as long as the total duration of treatment--meaning months to up to a year.