Finding My New Normal As a Young Adult Cancer Survivor

Finding My New Normal As a Young Adult Cancer Survivor

overcoming adversity
It’s been two years since I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m still wondering when in the world I’ll feel normal again.

There was a social media post going around today that said, “My Doctor Told Me I’d Never ______________ Again,” and a friend of mine wrote, “Feel Normal.” I read it and was quite triggered. First, it was so true! And second, my doctor prepared me for so much, but why didn’t he prepare me for this after-cancer isolation?

Sure, there are parts of me that are back to usual. I have hair now, I’ve lost pretty much all of my steroid weight, and my life isn’t controlled by needing to be at chemo every other week. An outsider looking in would consider my life quite normal, but I just don’t feel it. There are so many things about my after-cancer life that are an entirely new normal, and it creates an unspoken dilemma of ways that I am not able to relate to people who have not been through this experience.

I’m confident I could write a book about all of the different aspects this new normal has to offer. For instance, I look at my life’s timeline as “before cancer” and “after cancer.” My time frame correlates between which chemo treatment I was on when a certain event happened, and now it goes by my three-month increments of visits. I know that my fiancé proposed to me during the time of my one-year checkup. My life, and the people in it, are divided into before, during, and after cancer.

As much as I share and try to relay exactly how I feel about certain things related to cancer, I feel isolated in the non-cancer world. I’ve been told by my friends who have not shared my experience that they are unable to relate to me. That is understandable, as I can’t relate to them, either. But what happens next? How much does this divide us from the non-cancer world?

The isolation can be daunting. It’s like screaming at the top of your lungs and not one person can hear you.

There are many instances where my priorities have completely shifted, while many of the people I encounter are in the same place they were when I was diagnosed. How have I changed so drastically while this ever-changing world seems so stagnant?

Whether someone’s priority may be to party as much as they can in a week, or get straight As in school, it often seems so trivial to me. I find myself regularly asking, “WHY does this matter?” I catch myself with the mentality of, “I have my health and I’ve faced mortality … nothing else matters.”

This past semester in school was a big reality check. Although I was diagnosed two years ago, cancer will forever be a part of my life. It will be a part of me in terribly daunting ways, along with the growing beautiful ways. These are the circumstances of being a young adult diagnosed with cancer. We are at the peak of the moments that alter our lives forever. We are graduating school, getting big-kid jobs, and even having kids! These are some of the most memorable years of our lives, so it’s only fitting that this cancer experience will forever be a part of us.

Here’s to feeling misunderstood and to looking at many things as trivial, while also having a better version of our health and a badge of survivorship to continue to thrive through this new normal.


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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Radiant Racheli is an inspiring cancer survivor looking to spread smiles all over the internet by making video blogs on how to fight adversity with positivity and raises awareness for young adults with cancer. Racheli was diagnosed with Lymphoma at age 21 and video blogged her entire journey in its raw form. She laughs, she dances, she cries and, most importantly, she reminds us that everything is going to be okay.


  1. Cj says:

    Your column is honest and revealing. My nephew, diagnosed on his 15 birthday, is 19 now. He is struggling with depression and anxiety and trying to attend college, but he has developed extreme social anxiety. Is there a forum that he might join?

    Thank you for your honesty and I wish you much success and happiness.

  2. As someone who is nearly 3 1/2 yrs in remission and just cleared from any cancer due to an fatigue issue that was ruled out to not be active cancer – I am happy there is no cancer. I am not happy that my new normal has pointed out that once again I am not the old me, pre-cancer me. I am much older than you. However, I am a high achiever and have never failed at 95% of projects and things I have set out to do.

    But I believe I have found a hole in my armor. I have new normal limits. If I do not acknowledge the new normal limits – I suffer from exteme fatigue.

    Long terms effects of some of the drugs we’ve taken to stay alive will have implications for the rest of our new normal lives. I have to own the fact that I can keep pushing myself but there are limitations. A new element to my new normal to absorb and live with.

    Not having cancer at the moment means I don’t have to worry in the immediate future that I will relapse. That’s a good thing. Learning to set more realistic goals for me is a good thing too. It’s just implementing them :–)

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