I was in pain.
I was mutilated.
I was burned into oblivion.
I was exhausted.
I waited for the new normal. I thought maybe it would come with the implant surgery. I waited but it did not arrive.
I awoke each morning, wanting to feel normal and it didn't happen.
It's been 3 years and I have concluded this fact.
There is no NEW NORMAL.
There is simply a new reality.
There is nothing normal about the way I look or feel. My reconstructed breasts are flatter than I expected. They do not fill out my blouses like I was used to. The radiated side is scarred, contorted and misshapen. It is nothing like "normal" of any kind...new or old. I look in the mirror and my eyes are drawn to the difference of where one side sits normally and where the other side sits high and twisted. I sigh and stuff a bit of gauze into the front of bra on this radiated side, where radiation scarring has left it puckered and flattened. Nothing normal or new here.
I lift a basket of laundry to carry through the house. There is the uncomfortable rippling of skin and muscle over the implants. It doesn't hurt...just feels weird like a live creature moving beneath my skin. I amuse myself by flexing the muscles like a muscle builder and chuckle at the sight of the implants bouncing up and down. But it's not normal.
By the second load of laundry I feel the pull of the muscles across my chest, shoulders and back. The placement of muscles were distorted to create these new breasts. The altered physiology causes them to tire, then spasm and cramp. I learned to rest when I feel that pull. It keeps the spasm from happening and I avoid the pain. I rest, but it's not normal.
I am an old 50 year old woman. I stand and listen to myself groan more than my 90 year old grandmother did. I walk across the room to the chorus of snaps and creaks from joints that shouldn't feel this way. Nightly I add a drug to my body to lower the natural estrogen in my body. I removed the ovaries to end their assault on my estrogen fed cancer. I am in surgical menopause. This drug lowers my estrogen LOWER than menopause levels and my body reports it's complaint. The natural effects of estrogen are gone. It makes me old, but it is not normal.
I no longer feel sensual or feminine...not in a sexual way. The loss of estrogen altered my female parts so they no longer function as they once did. I can not love my husband as I once did. I still love him. He loves me and I still share my love with him, but no longer do I share my body. I do not feel normal.
I mop the floor and soon the back muscles spasm in complaint. The loss of breasts changed my distribution of weight. It changed my posture. It causes my back muscles to carry new responsibilities and they complain. It's not normal.
I have come to determine that this new normal is a myth. Well meaning doctors, clinics and friends advice you to get used to and accept this new normal. Most of them have never experienced cancer, the mutilation of mastectomies or the effects of chemo and anti cancer drugs. They never felt the pain of radiation burns and the loss of skin. They THINK there is a new normal that will come about, but the reality is simply I will never find "normal" again.
This is my new REALITY. Nothing about it is normal. The reconstruction, the drugs, the lymphodema sleeves, the altered muscles. I change the way I move, the way I sleep, the way I look and dress, the way I hug and love. It is not normal. But it is my reality and I can live with it.