Preparing for the New Normal of Life After Cancer

Preparing for the New Normal of Life After Cancer

overcoming adversity

“Nine months” I thought to myself. Nine months, and I’ll be done with chemo and cancer for good. I had a countdown as each of my chemo treatments passed. Every other Thursday. Twelve times.

After each round I’d place a sunflower sticker marking the numbers off my countdown.

Marking off chemo #7!

I couldn’t wait to go to Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night walk and light the white lantern, as a survivor.

I couldn’t wait for my life to be back to normal.

Little did I know, life doesn’t just go back to normal after cancer. You have an entirely “new normal,” as we like to call it in the cancer community. Over the past few months you have changed, but most of the people around you haven’t. It’s time to adjust and discover how your “new normal” fits into your pre-cancer world.

For me, I don’t feel that I was adequately prepared for survivorship. Like most people, I was under the impression that the feeling of being a cancer patient would die when I was declared in remission. Boy, was I wrong!

A tip that I have for current fighters, and especially ones who are approaching the end of their treatment, is to prepare for “Life After Cancer.”

Prepare to feel like a transplant in a world you thought you knew so well.
Prepare to be a little more sensitive during certain circumstances in your life.
Prepare to feel less understood by your pre-cancer friends/new people you meet.
Prepare to fear that at any moment the cancer could be back.
Prepare to encounter long-term side effects you didn’t know existed.
Prepare to be more resilient than you thought possible.
Prepare to wear your heart on your sleeve.
Prepare to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
Prepare to be more empathetic.
Prepare to feel disconnected from pre-cancer people in your life.
Prepare to face change.
Prepare to be triggered by things, like the water bottles from chemo.
Prepare to watch your body change in the most drastic and beautiful ways.
Prepare to cry a lot.
Prepare to judge people for first world problems.
Prepare to want to celebrate all the milestones, even the tiny ones.
Prepare to want to hold on tightly to all the joy in your life.
Prepare to avoid taking things for granted.
Prepare to feel entitled to certain things because you survived.
Prepare to experience survivor’s guilt.
Prepare to wonder if anyone in the room has had cancer.

This list and my words are not intended to scare you, but rather to prepare you for what’s to come. I also am here to tell you that a lot of these things have improved with time. These words are ever-changing and will vary, case to case. But prepare.

It is YOUR new normal way of life and I can’t wait to see what you make of it. 

I’d love to hear the “new normals” you have experienced and if any on my list resonate with you. Please leave a comment below and share away!


Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.

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  1. Lucas Narducci says:

    So true on every level. Even now going through NHL for the second time almost 27 years after my first go round in 1990, when I was only 32 years old and the father of 5 young children, the same points rang true then and ring true now. Life is wonderful, life is beautiful and the joy we experience can be grand. It is through experiences like these that our senses, spiritually, phisically, mentally and emotionally become heightend to make ourselves better people and help others to better themselves along the way. The new normal makes life as a whole a better normal.

    I, just the other day, was telling a work colleague how more sensitive to things I have become and said it in a good way. I thought I had gained insight in the first 27 years from my first experience with NHL but this second experience is that much better. No one said this road of life would be easy just that it would be worth it. I believe this to be true regardless of the ultimate outcome.

    Great points and ones all should consider no matter what stage or condition we are in.

  2. Jennifer Ciprian says:

    I have now been in remission for three years after my sister saved my life as my blood marrow transplant donor.
    I cried after reading Life After Cancer and things to prepare for. I still experience all of those things listed. But as time goes on, with love and support, those things do get easier. I would have to say the one ‘good’ thing to come out of all of this is how much stronger our family love grew and the wonderful Cleveland Clinic staff that I now consider friends.

  3. Carol says:

    Your articles are beautifully written and truly inspirational. My husband has just started chemo for NHL and life surely has changed! One day at a time is our mantra and keeping positive. Thank you for writing.

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