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The New Normal

“The Circle” Frank Swanson

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.

Transitions

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. 

Surprises

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.

Moving On


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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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”.
  4. 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.)
  5. One of those dear shore-side friends actually loaned us a car for the duration. I have no words.
  6. 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.
EW and the sculpture at Baptist M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville.

“The Circle”

The artist says about this sculpture:

The forms that make up my schulptual circle 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.

The Circle. Parts that Make us Whole

Placing the Tag Blame Where it Belongs

By now even we who aren’t obsessing about the Young Royals have seen the infamous tag and fashion faux pas.

Furor Over a Dangling Tag

Yep, the newest Duchess stepped off a plane in Tonga with the store tag dangling from her dress and Social Media was all over it.

Most were understanding and “forgiving” of her, saying she must be so tired as a pregnant bride in her first official royal tour. Believe me, I’m not going to pile any blame on her either. Not only did Harry choose a commoner, but he also chose a smart, successful woman from our side of the pond. Plus, he chose a woman with public baggage. And be honest, ladies. Didn’t those of us over 60 secretly wonder what would happen if we’d met Prince Charles before he wed Diana? (O.K. Nothing. Nothing would have happened. Plus back then we didn’t know he had given his heart to Camilla. So fine.)

Back to the Tag fashion faux pas and the Blame. There are a whole bunch of reasons to get married, or even to move in with your Sweetie: love, lust, friendship, companionship, zipping up the back of your dress, AND PERFORMING A FINAL CLOTHING CHECK BEFORE AN EVENT.

It’s Not Your Fault, Meghan

This is a sore spot for me as EW is actually great about letting me know if an outfit is flattering or not and horrible about checking the little things. When we first moved aboard the boat in Maine, I cannot tell you how often I went to work with my slip showing or some other fashion faux pas. It got so bad, that I badgered the owners of the marina to install a full-length mirror in the common area. (Dora St. Martin, a Friend for Life and fellow liveaboard, called it the “Barbara Mirror” and got one installed in her new marina in Boston.)

An Open Message to Prince Harry

Seriously, Prince Harry, when you embarked on this public marriage you agreed to help her negotiate steps and grass in her high heels, stand up for her against snarky tabloids, welcome her mom to England, and check her for slips, tags, bra straps, and other fashion faux pas.  Harry, do your dang job.

And yes, I have not yet come to believe that bra straps should show and that there are rules.  (I know this makes me old. Tough.)

An Open Message to the Duchess

Meghan, you looked great in that dress. Go take a nap—and stop scooching in heels while pregnant. That’s just scary on a whole lot of levels.

I Said “Yes!” to the Dress

Say “Yes!” to the Dress (Or Don’t Buy It)

I had an epiphany on a recent (desperate—well kind of desperate) shopping expedition. It could, I hope, make shopping fun again and help all of us with that “capsule wardrobe”. I said, “Yes!” to the dress.

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