3 Things You Need to Make Your “New Normal” Just Plain Normal

lawbookphotoHow would you react if your husband presented you with an individual volume of New Jersey Superior Court Reports as a present? I bet you’d be as stunned as I was.

To be fair, my husband and I are attorneys (I’m retired), but I still had absolutely no idea why he thought I’d be excited to receive a book of reported New Jersey legal decisions as a gift. Had he lost his mind?

“Don’t you remember your reported case?” he asked as I held volume 230 in my hand.

With no memory that I had a reported case, let alone the case’s name, I fumbling through the Table of Cases looking for something familiar. Finally, my husband couldn’t stand it anymore, “Hurley v. Hurley.”

I flipped to the page and stared in amazement. There it was — Deborah A. Woodbury — my official lawyer’s name. Seeing it reminded me what a big deal a reported case is to an attorney. It truly is impressive, especially when you’re on the winning side of the decision (which I am proud to say I was). Yet, somehow, I had forgotten all about it.

As I pondered how I could have forgotten something that was once so momentous, it struck me that somewhere along the line, my “new normal” as a retired attorney had become simply normal. I was no longer living in that intersection between what had been and what was now. Forgetting was a side effect of moving on into the next phase of life.

Of course, retiring from the practice of law wasn’t the only time I created a “new normal.” I went from single to married, and childless to mother of two. When I look back at the young, single woman I was all those years ago, I don’t recognize her. I also don’t miss her because I quickly embraced the “new normal” of married and parental life.

It’s a lot harder to settle in when the “new normal” is thrust upon you. Years ago, I had no choice but to end a completely dysfunctional relationship with my father. That “new normal” was a lot healthier for me, but a struggle to manage while he was alive. Even so, I was able to forego his funeral without a hint of guilt because the complete disconnect between us had become the norm.

I also struggled with infertility and miscarriages before the birth of our first child. That was the first time I faced the “new normal” of betrayal by a formerly healthy body. Later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, that same betrayal, anger, loneliness, stress, and fear became the “new normal.”

Here’s what I’m working on: making the “new normal” of life beyond cancer just plain normal. Whatever your struggle, I know it’s possible to move beyond constant comparisons between what was and what now is with the right tools. Here’s what it’s going to take:

  1. Time: It takes time to get used to the shock of a “new normal.” This is true even when we’ve chosen it (as anyone with a new baby can testify). When we have no control, it’s even harder. The trick is to be in the moment and avoid projecting out beyond right now. You’ve got enough to deal with without convincing yourself that it’s always going to be this hard. Time moves us along and teaches us to accept.
  2. Support: No one should face sudden, catastrophic change without a strong support system in place. Knowing that you’re not alone and other people understand what you are going through heals and strengthens you
  3. Expression: Facing a “new normal” creates stories that need to be told. Join a support group or an online community, or share with a friend who “gets it.” The more you tell your stories, the more you take your power back and find your footing.

For me, it takes one more thing to move beyond the “new normal” to normal. It takes a partner who stood beside me through all of the above and never wavered. I’m still stunned he remembered my lawyer’s moment of fame and searched out that book for me. It’s the single most romantic present he’s ever given me and a reminder that I can make the “new normal” just plain normal.

Survival > Existence,




Patty's picture

making the right decisions for treatment alone

I just found this blog tonight and after reading many comments, I feel a bit less alone on this journey of recovery. I was diagnosed with breast cancer Jan. 2011, lumpectomy March, radiation twice daily x 5 days in May. No one answered my questions or warned me the side effects of radiation which were highly debilitating so much so, I could hardly get in & out of bed for almost a year from fibromyalgia triggered by treatment. A year later I was told by the medical department that one treatment of radiation = eight hours of hard labor.

I live alone and had just started my own company so laying around and feeling sorry for myself was not an option but I sure was lonely as I cried off & on without notice sometimes heading home early afternoon with no energy left to work with. One year follow-up they found four tumors in my thyroid which were a different type of slow growing cancer. Entire thyroid was removed August 2012 followed by radio-isotope swallow making me radioactive the week of Thanksgiving.

The good news is omega-3’s twice daily have put my fibromyalgia at bay for the most part. I have lost 20 of the 30 lbs put on during treatment. What I really want to put out here is there are doctors curing cancer every day through nutrition and treatments that make us stronger not sicker. I’d like to recommend viewing the DVD (Crazy Sexy Cancer) and reading Suzanne Somers’ book BREAKTHROUGH. This book has many contact #’s and address & websites for reference.

I am not an advocate for radiation which also scared my lungs, and absolutely will not use chemotherapy which too many studies show it hurts the patient more than helps and isn’t even effective against many cancers, pancreatic for one. I guess what I am trying desperately to say is, “If having cancer pushes us to stand up for clean non-GMO foods, less drugs for profits sake, and standing strong together for the greater good of our health & future generations, then let’s lean on each other because there is strength in numbers.” We can beat this. Cancer is no longer a death sentence.

Thank you for allowing me a spot to vent.


Debbie's picture

Welcome to WWGN! I’m Glad You’re Here!


Welcome to WWGN! I’m glad you feel less alone and I hope you continue to be an active member of our community. You bring up interesting points. Cancer treatments are extremely difficult and everyone responds to them differently. For many, chemo and radiation treatments are life-savers, but that does not mean they don’t result in life-changing side effects. I totally agree that we should do more to reduce our risk of cancer by taking in less toxins in our food, cosmetics, etc. Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, was the first I turned to when I was diagnosed. It offers a lot of information about healthy living and, most importantly for me, it is very supportive emotionally. I can’t help but think that your having to make decisions and live through treatment alone made it especially hard for you. Please continue to reach out for support from other survivors. We also need to stand up for each other and make sure no one has to do cancer alone. It’s simply too hard. Blessings and good health to you.

Survival > Existence,


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