Friday, April 18, 2014

From the Archives: "I have to return some videotapes"

Throughout treatment (which I completed three years ago), I shared updates with friends and family through a website called Carepages. Because there's only so much "one treatment down, three to go" you can share, I asked friends and family members to submit questions to me. Below, I respond to the question "What care from others has been positive and helpful?" I wrote this December 20, 2010.

This post is dedicated to the question posed to me, what responses or care from others has been positive and helpful?

I could answer this question in any number of ways, mostly because I've been fortunate enough to receive such consistent and unwaivering support. However, there is a way I will choose to answer it that has come to the forefront over the past couple of weeks, after attending a few Christmas parties and being asked, "So, Stephanie, what's new with you?"

The thing I have found helpful is an awareness of how my life has changed since my diagnosis. Yes, I can see how that might seem vague. But really, I am finally admitting to myself that my idea of ‘normal’ has been irreversibly changed.

Right after I was diagnosed I tried very hard to retain a level of normalcy. It might have been my way of keeping my arm’s length from the gravity of the situation by reassuring myself that nothing had to change. But also, when visiting with friends or family, I felt like my moods and behaviour were being scrutinized, and I had to try that much harder to be ‘normal’ just so everyone knew I was doing ok, and that my diagnosis hadn't, in fact, 'changed' me.

But, after a while (and to be honest, longer than I expected), I've accepted the changes, both in perspective, behaviour and lifestyle. At this point, I can't deny how a movie called “Devil”, with themes of anger and forgiveness, and another about a man who cuts his arm off in order to survive a climbing accident, somehow speak directly to me as a cancer patient.

At this point, it feels like being ‘normal’ is simply a means to end. It’s a way of reminding myself how I lived life before my diagnosis, and how life will continue long past treatment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m looking very much forward to a point in the (hopefully very) near future when ‘simple stresses’ will be my only concerns, and the monotonies of everyday life will consume me once again (now there's a goal to work toward!).

Until then, however, the answer to the question 'what's new?' will probably be somehow related to the progress of my treatment (cause to be honest, that's all I think about), and the 'normal' topics we discuss in passing may simply not be my cup of tea. It took me a while to accept this, but there it is. The new normal is settling in.


  1. I wonder, how do you feel now when people ask "what's new with you?" How has this changed or stayed the same?


  2. I'm so grateful for your question, Catherine. I think that's something missing from the discussion on cancer survivorship these days... the experience of survivors as far out treatment as I am. I'll answer your question but I think this calls for a follow up blog post!! Generally speaking, I have a much better idea now of the people I can seek out for support and advice on the matter. Yes... even four years later... I'm still learning. Stay tuned for more on that!