If there is life, there is change. Often, it creeps up on us: kids get taller, our bodies sag, the “new” car is 3 years old, and last year’s “in” color or dress is passé.
And then there are those life transitions such as graduation, marriage, parenting, divorce, job changes, the empty nest, and retirement which will require us to embrace a New Normal. While they may gobsmack us, none of them are (or should be) a surprise, yet all of them require a new outlook such as letting the kids stay home alone, repainting the kitchen, cleaning out the closet (for real this time), learning new software, or downsizing our home. While we may find any “New Normal” to be emotionally, intellectually, or financially challenging, they are rarely a surprise.
Cancer is not like that. Cancer does not creep up. One day we think we are a healthy person (though perhaps with a bit of a bug or a thing) and the next we day we find out it’s Cancer. Cancer is not a rite of passage. Cancer is not something one aspires to. And, unfortunately, Cancer is never passé.
When we say “My Cancer”, it is not the same as saying, “My circumnavigation”, “My new sofa”, “My wedding”, or even “My divorce.” Cancer is not on anyone’s bucket list.
All too often, Cancer happens, and you and yours are suddenly thrust into a “New Normal”—one that is ever-changing and may continue for the rest of your (and your loved one’s) life. And like so many of these life events, it’s one that most of us can’t truly understand until it’s happened to us, or to our partner, child, sibling, parent, or other similarly loved individual.
Our Surprising New Normal
Aboard La Luna, we have an unanticipated “New Normal”. On November 15, 2018, EW (my partner for 34 years and spouse for 32) was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer. There is no “good” cancer, but this is one of the “not good” varieties. Trust me. Don’t Google it and look up even respected websites because you won’t like what you see. I didn’t.
It took a couple of weeks to learn just how far EW’s cancer had progressed (spoiler alert: Not That Far!), another two to get a plan in place, and about two more to start treatment. That’s really quick. We are very, very fortunate. Let me count the ways:
- The PET/CT Scan showed NO cancer far away from the 2-3 centimeter area of the esophagus. When EW’s oncologist saw the report he looked up and said, “This is curable!” Curable is my new favorite word. (Curable has no guarantees, but it does bring great hope.)
- We have very dear friends here who work in the medical community in Jacksonville and who know many of the best oncologists, surgeons, and treatment options. They have guided us from Day One and we are delighted with the people and treatment available at the UF Proton Therapy Center. (As well as with that at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.)
- We have many other dear friends here on boats and onshore and they have rallied to provide much-needed advice and to start a group that will make meals and do a few chores for us and who will be on call when we need help. That group is “Team Stew”.
- We have gotten appointments with some of the best physicians in their fields and (here’s a bonus) in addition to being very smart and extremely experienced, each has a sense of humor. (We won’t meet the surgeon until later in January, and will accept him even if he is dour as he is super smart and unbelievably experienced.)
- One of those dear shore-side friends actually loaned us a car for the duration. I have no words.
- In the midst of their very busy season following six months of expensive and time-consuming hurricane repair, the marina allowed us to move to a slip for as long as we need to be here.
The artist says about this sculpture:
The forms that make up my
schulptualcircle are cut from the same block of stone. They symbolize people embracing, helping and supporting one another as a caring community.
The Immediate Future
As you can imagine, we already have a bunch of stories and teaching moments to share. Stories that are funny, infuriating, and hopeful—including one from one of our Heels and Tevas Members, who is currently getting used to a New Normal after cancer treatment and surgery. (All is good.)
Don’t worry. Heels and Tevas may have been going thru some growing pains and shifts lately, but we will not become an “All Cancer/All the Time” blog. (If I take it that far, I’ll do a new blog.) But, dang it, whether we want to admit it or not, life certainly includes twists we didn’t foresee and requires all of us to embrace a New Normal at any given moment.
The operative word in that last sentence is “requires”. Cancer absolutely requires you to make innumerable changes in your daily life, plans, finances, eating habits, and more. Nothing will remain the same. EW and I have decided it does not require us to despair, give up, or withdraw. We laugh every day, enjoy music, love living on the boat, and embrace family and friends with harder hugs and a stronger love. That’s all part of the New Normal.