A New Normal

Mara B | Administrator |

The word survivor conveys so much in the cancer world. Technically speaking, in our clinics, from the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you are considered a survivor and we have a range of services to support patients. There are three main stages of survivorship,…

diagnoses, post treatment and generally five years post treatment. Sometimes patients don’t feel quite like survivors when they have months of treatment in front of them and frequently when they “graduate” from treatment they seek the security blanket of the cancer center and treatment team.

While the word survivor is incredibly empowering for some people, we also know that it totally rubs others the wrong way. What we hear is that cancer patients just want their lives back and want to go back to being “normal”. However, one of the secrets of being a cancer survivor is that there is no going back and that you have to create a “new normal”, even if it comes along with a little chemo brain and fatigue.

In my view, anyone who figures out how to achieve a “new normal” should wear the badge of survivor proudly!


  1. You really hit the nail on the head. I really resisted the word survivor, just as I resisted the concept of “fighting against cancer.” I did not want to think of my body as a war field. But now that I am on the other side of this thing, living the new normal, I wear the badge of survivor very proudly!

    Anne B. | | 2:57pm

  2. It’s been almost since 2005. I have to calculate the years in my head, more than I feel comfortable. I was a nurse who could remember everything from blood values from a particular patient, to the names of their nieces and nephews. I’m grateful that I have survived so long, more than grateful. I asked God to please keep me around for so many milestones in my children’s lives, and I am here.
    Years ago, my husband and other family members, planned a party for me, to mark the end of my cancer journey. I walked into the house, surprise, and really, grateful for all that were there, all those who helped during treatment. There was a huge poster of me, hanging over the fireplace. I felt, for a quick moment, that….well, some of you might know how I felt.
    I am a survivor. Treatments and the wonderful thinking of those who fight cancer in the medical field mean that I am alive today. I resisted the pictures and postings in the halls of MGH when I first discovered I had cancer. I didn’t want to believe that cancer would be a chronic disease rather than a death sentence. I wanted to go into treatment and come out, leave it behind.
    I’m very fortunate that even though my cancer and all of it’s faces, all of it’s scars, all of it’s complications, has me writing this post. For me, it has been a chronicity. But, I’ve just seen one of my children graduate and another in just a week’s time. I’ve seen all that I wanted and more than I thought I would. I’m still moving, I’m still standing and with all of the pain that i deal with after rectal cancer, I’m still
    more than surviving. I’m happy.

    kathleen | | 6:42pm

  3. I felt relieved when I was diagnosed and was suggested for a liver transplant. Prior to my liver disease, I struggled with an alcoholic addiction for years, causing a tremendous amount of troubles and pains to my family and other people. After several tries to quit drinking, I finally reached to the new spiritual height of sobriety in March of 2010. Three months later, my routine check on my damaged liver revealed that there were a few tumors.
    At that moment, I already felt that I started a new life. And coming back from a full liver transplant in 2012 was not considered as “survived” to me. I think my experience, even today, is learning and understanding how to incorporate with cancer. Not fight against it. Because if I choose to fight, I know I will lose from my experience with addiction.
    To me, cancer and related activities are partners to live my life more positively and productively. I can be happy by recognizing the important things in life. And being a patient has made me understand this fact and feeling.
    It’s hard to call it instead a cancer survivor. Maybe a “cancer partner” or a “cancer taker” is an appropriate words to describe my status.
    Thank you for all your help, work, and love to make me feel where I am now!

    Eishun Maki | | 7:12pm

  4. Since cancer is now described by some as a chronic disease, why not describe the experience as “living with cancer” rather than being a “survivor of cancer.” Living with cancer suggests that at the very least, you can take control of your attitude while dealing with both your physical and emotional well being.

    Marg M | | 10:24pm

  5. Following successful treatment for cancer in 2003, I feel I am both a ‘survivor’ of cancer and someone whose life and outlook was so radically changed by having cancer that it is a continuing relationship. I don’t think surviving something has to mean it no longer touches you. Perhaps it just means you are fortunate enough to still be here to adapt and reflect on the experience, to let it enhance your life, and hopefully use it to support and encourage other people facing similar challenges.

    Liz P | | 6:19am

  6. I also feel that “living with” is more accurate for me. In part because I didn’t go back to anything like what I felt like before cancer – and in part because I’m still on daily hormone treatment to prevent it from coming back, so deal with the intense side effects of my ongoing treatment. I am happy to be alive but feel so much more that I’m still in it than looking in the rear view mirror. I finished surgeries and chemo and radiation (for now) but the “post-treatment” treatment continues to be incredibly challenging.

    Linda | | 7:55pm

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