Normality promotes feelings of hope

I’ve been reading The Diary of Mrs Brown with great interest. A fellow oncology Mum, she recently wrote about trying to keep things as normal as possible. 

For me, normality sounds good. It promotes feelings of hope. It says that this is only temporary and that things will get better again.
Here’s the “but” though… While you think you are being normal, changes are creeping in, subtle at first, but as you begin to take in the ramifications of having a child with cancer slowly you are sliding towards the new normal.

The new normal will find you sticking wrapping paper down with the nearest available medical tape because the sellotape has run out and you don’t have time to buy more … Heck the recipient was lucky you even remembered their birthday and was able to get them a gift! Hospital gift shops are great by the way! So you raid the dressings emergency pack and use the same tape as what is stuck to your child’s face to stop their NG feeding tube coming out.

By this time the new normal has got quite a grip and there are some things that are “normal” for other children that are now out of reach for children with cancer. Often they are unable to go to school during treatment. School; the biggest thing in a child’s life – until cancer. If possible though you can keep things normal by trying to stick to a routine. Ha ha! Taking into account that there’s “time” and there’s “hospital time”. They’re quite different.

Eventually though I must admit I gave up trying to be normal because some days it just wasn’t going to happen. Some days are just moment by moment, taking whatever it throws at you, dealing with it the best way you can.

So, once you let go of your pre-cancer life, you find that you crave normal, ordinary, mundane… The ironing, the food shopping, the school run in the pouring rain, homework, cleaning shoes on a Sunday night, the packed lunch. Things many people take for granted and complain about often.

There’s no more coffee-in-town-with-a-friend. If you want coffee with a friend it will be at your child’s hospital bedside while they have their chemo, blood transfusion, IV antibiotics or whatever … 

And finally when end of treatment comes and the new normal is going to become a thing of the past, you find yourself lost. No longer the safety blanket of hospital and frequent check ups. The anxiety of relapse waves at you from a far distant corner of your mind and you try to slap it down but it’s there. A little niggle. All the time.

And non oncology folk will now flock to greet you and shake your hand and hug you and tell you how strong you have been, and isn’t it wonderful now the cancer has gone? And oh look his/her hair has grown back.

They don’t see the long term side effects of treatment. They don’t remember the fight you had just to get a diagnosis and then the struggle you had to try to stay normal with a life threatening illness in the room. They laugh that the paper around their birthday present was stuck down with medical tape. The emergency dressings pack (or what’s left of it) remains in a drawer with your child’s oncology medical folder and you try not to look at it. You try to forget that this big, huge, colossal event ever happened because now you are “normal” again. Your child has hair after all and you don’t have to keep taking temperatures and avoiding certain foods. 

Congratulations! You’re now entering the remission years…

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