“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.
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.