Courageous Women with Cancer, Part 2

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Alan Cohen

Yesterday, right after I posted my Mindful Monday post about Courageous Women with Cancer, I decided to pronounce this Courageous Women with Cancer Week. Why not, right?As we all know, the courage needed to face cancer doesn’t end once treatment is over. In fact, once treatment is finished, we’re left with a challenge of even greater proportion – how to live a life forever changed by cancer.

Being diagnosed with cancer and facing sicknessmortalitybody image issuesanxietylonelinessstress, and angerchanges a person. It also changes a life. The truth is that re-entering our old, “normal” lives just isn’t possible. Whether we like it or not, our lives have morphed into the “new normal.”

Over the past three years, I’ve met women who’ve faced the changes of cancer and constructed a “new normal” of power and meaning. Lockey Maisonneuve, a personal trainer, is now the moving force behind MovingOn rehabilitative exercise program for breast cancer survivors. Barbara Bair was a high school English teacher who loved her job and did not want to retire. Now, she cherishes her work with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project and Operation Bling. In fact, each and every woman I’ve met through the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project amazes me in her dedication to educating medical professionals to see patients as whole women with complicated lives above and beyond their cancer.

If you’re asking yourself “Where do I go now after cancer?” or any other life changing event, for that matter, you are not alone. Change is scary. Transitions are often painful. But I have never experienced a transition (and I’ve gone through quite a few) which didn’t ultimately enrich my life. In fact, it was the moment I created my Gifts & Losses List that I knew I was moving out of the darkness of cancer and into the light of my “new normal.” The power of making that list has never left me.

It can be extremely frightening to end up on a road you never thought you’d be traveling. But you can embrace the “new normal” and create a life of adventure and excitement. I know you can, because I did. We are all  courageous women with cancer and in the many changes we have and will experience, there is great power.

Happy first day of Spring! It’s a perfect day to throw open a window and courageously make some changes! Let me how your life has changed post-cancer. Do you find yourself reacting more courageously to change because of your cancer experience? 

Survival > Existence,



Marie Ennis-O'Connor's picture

I love this – what a great

I love this – what a great idea and a perfect way to officially celebrate the start of spring.

Debbie's picture

Thanks, Marie!


Thanks! I think I’m going to expand it to “The First Annual Courageous Women with Cancer Week.” What do you think?

Survival > Existence,


Dianne Duffy's picture

Not there quite yet

Thanks for writing, Debbie.

I have to say that I’m not quite there yet. I kept hearing about this “new normal” after my treatment stopped. But I kept thinking, “If this is normal, I sure don’t want it!” It only took me three years to figure out that the Tamoxifen and the anti-depressants were making me suicidal! That was not anything close to any “normal” that I would ever want.

Frankly, I’m shell shocked. I was a lot more courageous at the beginning of cancer than I am now. It takes me courage just to step out my door each morning. Going to the doctor…

When I finally started feeling better, my therapist asked me if I had any plans like those women you are talking about, or maybe to run a race or participate in a walk. I told her I just really wanted to get back to living – just living.

I’m still working on it

Thanks again for writing – and making me think.


Debbie's picture

There is Immense Courage in “Just Living”


I wrote an earlier post which started with the quote, “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” Albert Camus. 

Living with the stresses and strains of cancer takes tremendous courage – every moment of every day. You’ve been through so much and are still struggling. I commend you for finding the courage every day to step out the door. You are every bit as much a courageous woman with cancer as the women I wrote about.

Working on getting back to living takes tremendous enegy and courage. Bravo to you and I wish you all the best.

Survival > Existence,


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