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After Breast Cancer: A New Normal or a New Perspective?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brenda Coffee photo ©Liz Garza Williams. All rights reserved.

Every Monday night at 9pm EST there's a terrific chat on Twitter about “the intersection of breast cancer and all things social media” (#BCSM). If you've never used Twitter, it limits users to 140 characters, including blank spaces, which forces you to make your thoughts concise and to the point. Perhaps the best thing about Twitter is that it allows you to have dialogs with people from all over the world, people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet.

For those of you who wonder if anything meaningful can come from writing a sentence or two, here’s a sampling of last Monday night’s Twitter chat about “finding our new normal after breast cancer treatment.” Participants in this conversation are listed below.<PREVIEWEND>

•Don't get frustrated - pace of recovery often much slower than you would like/expect.
•Still learning patience/faith but it’s all about letting the body/mind spirit heal @own pace.
•No such thing as normal…ever again. Still can enjoy life, tho.
•I happen to hate the word “normal.”
•Very hard to accept that things might never get back to “normal.”

•Patience is a good thing! Be patient as you adjust to post-treatment life.
•Getting back to relationships…sometimes it felt like I saw the world in color & everyone around me in b&w.
•You changed but no one else did-big problem with relationships after treatment.
•I savor life fully but am deeply traumatized by BRCA. 2 sides of coin.
•Did anyone else seem to bottom out AFTER treatments were over? Had to push… and then BAM!

•Very common to bottom out, so much energy put into just making it thru treatment, then over! You crash.
•For all of us, some days are better than others. For those who’re surviving something, those bad days play out in stereo.
•Our co-survivors probably want us to find our new normals more than anyone because they’re SO ready for life to move on.
•Treatment ages you, no one expects that. We’re all getting older but treatment seems to accelerate the process.
•Knowledge is power but also a burden sometimes.

•How can we help others see “new normal” as a chance for discovery? By sharing our stories.
•Some days I feel like I’m 90.
•Perhaps we could suggest to them that “new normal” is a chance to have a “do over.”
•Embrace the things you’ve put off or feared.
•I might be a little impatient and hard on myself.
•Help others understand that finding their new normal is an opportunity full of new insight others don’t have.

•The opportunity to have a new normal sure beats the alternative.
•Healing physically is only part of the process, emotionally can take much longer.
•Relationships do change and that can be a sad and frustrating consequence.
•Lots of husbands stray after breast cancer, perhaps because they’re SO ready to move on & their wife isn’t there yet.
•Fatigue huge problem. You look fine, people don’t understand why you can’t do what you used to, causes strain.

•Parents in major denial and didn’t wanna talk cancer.
•25% of husbands leave their wives after breast cancer. Most are thinking w/their little brains & some are just jerks.
•Disease is a psychological burden on the whole family.
•The “new normal” is a phrase I see over and over again… and never liked!
•Normal is what you think you are and no one else is.

•Cancer seems to bring out the best and the worst in us. Fear is natural but can be damaging.
•Why do I want to return to ‘normal?’ I had cancer when I was ‘normal.’
•The only thing standard about recovery is that it’s a process we each live through differently.
•It also assumes that treatment is over then & it’s all behind us, which it never is.
•When you’re done with treatment, it may not be done with you.

As you can see, there’s a lot of wisdom and experience in our Monday night Twitter chat. Since many people don’t care for the term “new normal,” toward the end of the hour, moderator, Alicia Stales, tossed out two new questions: “So what’s a better phrase besides ‘new normal?’ & How do you describe this different person that you are?” to which @fiestybluegecko from Thailand responded, “I see life through a different lens now.” I thought about Alicia’s question regarding a better phrase for ‘new normal’ and answered, “After treatment we look at things differently and we “gain” our “new perspective.”

Anyone who says Twitter is for “twits” or that you can’t have meaningful conversations in 140 characters or less is mistaken. I don’t know about you, but some of these responses are not only profound but good suggestions for those who are going through cancer or are in the process of “gaining” their “new perspective.”


PS: Some of the participants in our Twitter chat:
@Bethlgainer, Beth L. Gainer
@BCSisterhood, Brenda Coffee
@ccchronicles
@chemo_babe
@DrAttai, Dr. Deanna Attai
@drseisenberg, Dr. Steven Eisenberg
@feistybluegecko, Philippa Ramsden
@itsthebunk, Liza Bernstein
@JediPD, PDara MD, FACP
@jodyms, Jody Schoger, co-moderator
@nursefriendly, Andrew Lopez, RN
@regrounding, Lori Marx-Rubiner
@rsm2800 Robert S. Miller, MD
@stales, Alicia C. Staley, co-moderator
@strongsarah
@subatomicdoc, Matthew Katz
@westr, Robert West


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