I’ve been sleeping pretty well lately. So well that I’m not really a night owl or an early bird. I used to be a morning person. I believe I will be again. I woke at 5am this morning, realizing I was contorted in such a way that my right arm was totally smashed. One of my concerns since my surgery is that I’ll give myself lymph edema by cutting off circulation in my right arm or hand while I sleep. Just one of those little “you’re not the same person” moments I have everyday. Not a huge deal. Just letting you in.
That phrase “new normal” is one that bounces around my mind a lot. What will be the “new normal” of how I think? How will the “new normal” feel as it pertains to my body? What will be the “new normal” for my emotional baseline? When does “new normal” happen? How do you know when you’ve achieved “new normal” status and you’re not still ricocheting through the crazy? Is crazy just part of the “new normal”?
So yeah, this past week, I started to sleep on my side. That’s new. Almost three months after surgery, and my body is still healing. Here’s a little more insight into how it feels. One of the benefits of having this bilateral mastectomy is that I don’t have to wear a bra anymore. I was so excited to be DONE with bra straps, but I wondered how it’s possible to not need a bra when you’re running up the stairs or simply going out in public. I had no idea how stable–nay–immovable my chest expanders would be. Even more surprising was the fact that it feels like I’m wearing an underwire bra that has shimmied halfway up my chest. But I think that feeling is wearing off. Or I’m getting used to it, because I’m finally not reaching to take off my bra every night. Three months. One simple “new normal”. Until I change out these inflatables for silicone some time in the Fall, and then I’ll have another adjustment. There are so many more examples. And while I could avoid talking about boobs, I think there are some breast cancer peeps out there who could benefit from learning that little tidbit.
Yesterday, I did two haircuts. It felt great. I felt like me. The old me, but more confident. After sweeping up hair and starting a load of laundry, I had this nagging feeling that I needed to do something. Dinner was planned…what was it?? I decided to start a tedious project: Go through the two bags of random junk that accumulated when cleaning out the van. Ugh. Can’t I just go get an infusion and eat a cookie??? Kidding!! But getting back to dealing with the tedium of life is not sexy. I welcomed the interruption, a call from Molly who asked how radiation went. AGH!!! I forgot to go!!!! We quickly hung up and the awesome team at Abbott squeezed me in. This is the second time in less than a week I’ve forgotten to go. Last week, my friend Joy was in town and we had it on our itinerary and everything, but we still managed to forget, then scramble and thankfully get squeezed into the schedule. All this to say, I feel like some elements of “old normal” are coming back. I feel like my old self in some ways so much that I forget that I am in treatment. And that feels terrifying and awesome.
This old self vs. the “new normal” has resulted in a few break downs, to be quite honest. How do these fit together? I have been struggling with anxiety as my brain and heart are trying to process and protect and function. It feels like a pinball game is happening inside my chest 75% of the time. I’m taking measures to deal with this, but it’s just another thing. On one hand, it feels like an urgent matter. On the other, I feel very laissez-faire, like, “just add it to the list”.
Back in December, I wrote about my friends Matt and Martha who lost their precious daughter to an accidental death. I wrote about my friend whose mom’s breast cancer came back fiercely. She passed away just weeks later, leaving her adoring husband and daughters and siblings and mother. I think about us, the nomads living in the “new normal” Who are we anymore? Who will we be in six months or a year? What feelings are allowed? What tone can I take with God? What parts of me will be restored? How will facing my mortality effect my decisions? I don’t need answers. I know that I will experience the answers over time. I’m just letting you in.