new normal, normal

How To Redefine Your “New Normal” After Diagnosis

“New normal.” How many times have you heard that phrase since diagnosis day? Do you dislike it as much as I do?

It feels like a sugarcoated way of saying, “End of our old normal.” And sometimes, it’s hard to admit that the old normal is gone.

After all, we didn’t ask for this. We didn’t choose this life of IVs and “counts” for our child—or for our family. It was thrust upon us.

One minute, we were worrying about what was for supper. And it felt like the very next moment, we found ourselves wondering if our child would need a feeding tube that night.

What could be normal about that?

Life After Diagnosis

When my son Cooper was first diagnosed, it felt like normal would never be a word we used to describe our life ever again. After all, my friends were talking about playgroups and their next vacation, while I was trying to understand what acute lymphoblastic leukemia would mean for our family.

new normal, normal

Things had flipped upside down. Fear and survival seemed to be all that remained.

But time marches on. Test results come back. The words the doctors say start to make sense.

And, after a little bit, you notice that normal has indeed started to creep back in. It doesn’t look at all like it used to. Life will never be the same after childhood cancer. Normal will never look the way it once did.

But still, normal does return. In small ways, it works its way back into your life. One day, you notice you have a routine for doing laundry or eating lunch in the hospital. Suddenly, nurses start to feel more like familiar faces than strangers, and doctors like guideposts for the journey.

You start to settle in, because that’s what families do. They make their home where their heart is—even if that means a crowded hospital room. They have a snack shelf and a game drawer. They develop a bath routine and a list of favorite foods from the snack room.

Yes, maybe you will still forbid your closest friends from saying “new normal” to you, because the phrase is just downright irritating. But a part of your brain will reluctantly start to admit that that’s exactly what this is.

You’ll find yourself looking at pictures of your child with a tan in the summer, swinging a bat, or swimming in the pool. And you’ll remember there is life beyond these four walls, and this cancer treatment schedule—and you are all going to get back to it.

It might not look the same as it used to, but that’s okay. Because, in the end, what matters most is getting your baby healthy, no matter what that normal looks like.

The Journey Ahead

Maybe we could call this new normal a fresh start instead—a journey to getting our children healthy.

And others have walked this journey before us. They have sat beside these hospital beds and cried in these bathrooms when they thought their kids were asleep.

And now, they are living their fresh start. And I think if they were here right now whispering to us, they would say, “Keep going. I promise there is an end. It won’t always be like this.”

So, let’s keep marching forward together, dear friends. We are companions in the same journey. Soldiers in the same war. And I am so grateful to find you here in this space where we can connect, learn, and support each other along this journey.

I invite you to leave a comment. If you’d like, introduce yourself, and tell us what this new normal means to you.

Jenni DeWitt
I’ve been a cancer mom since February of 2012 when my 2-year-old son, Cooper, was diagnosed with leukemia. I'm excited to connect with you here at Lionfighters and on

4 thoughts on “How To Redefine Your “New Normal” After Diagnosis

  1. Jenni, This looks like a great website! Surely many parents will find comfort and useful information here. None of my children ever had cancer, but I had cancer 3 times. Yes, I am living the “new normal”. I don’t like it, but the only other option is giving up. What my oncologist told me over and over. We can’t change anything done in the past, we can only go forward, and we are going for a cure. I held onto those words and we battled cancer with all we had. We gathered up everyone we could to pray. And now, that new normal is cancer free! I look forward to reading more posts here. Congratulations on getting this started!

  2. Janet, what a battle you have had! I always love to read those words “cancer free.” It’s like the light at the end of a very long tunnel. So grateful you are joining us here at LionFighters. Blessings to you as you live your fresh start!

  3. This is wonderful Jenni!! Katelyn just finished up her treatment in November at Children’s….I wish our paths would have crossed during our many stays on the 6th floor! She is currently 6 months into remission. We are starting to get back into the old normal, but it is still not the same as it was pre-diagnosis! This sounds a little bit crazy, but there are times where I just want to make a visit and sit and talk to the nurses and doctors. They were our family for the last year when we were going through treatment. It was our “home away from home”. I am going to enjoy reading all of these blogs…thank you for sharing your heart with all of us cancer moms and dads!! 🙂

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