Reentry, Back to Normal, New Normal – Yet Another Cancer/Pandemic Parallel



Reentry, back to normal, new normal. Where have we heard this sort of terminology before?

All this “back to normal, new normal” talk is yet another parallel many of us have noted between the pandemic and cancer worlds.

There have been a lot of parallels. I mean, a lot! This does not mean the experiences are the same. They are not. Still, the parallels are notable and worth talking about. Let me know what you think.

You might want to read, The Striking Parallels Between Cancer & the Covid-19 Experiences & Why Thinking About Them Matters.

Recently, Dear Hubby and I took a long awaited for road trip, our first since before the pandemic. While it felt soooo good to pack up the vehicle, head out and arrive at one of our favorite destinations, the North Shore of Lake Superior, it also felt weird. Really weird.

Reentry, Back to Normal, New Normal - yet another parallel between the #cancer and #Covid-19 experiences #survivorship #cancerlanguage #breastcancer #MBC
Caribou Falls, North Shore

Getting back to normal did not actually feel normal at all.

We still wore our masks. We packed (okay I packed) our lunch and snacks. We kept on social distancing. We ditched our plan to eat at the onsite restaurant because when it came right down to it, we didn’t feel comfortable being around other people yet. We decided to stick to carry out. We decided to stick to ourselves. Yes, we’ve become a hermit-like couple. And we’re both okay with this. For now anyway.

On the drive home, came the CDC announcement that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks, for the most part anyway. And yet, we’re still wearing ours when out and about. We’re still not comfortable going without. (We’ll get there.)

I’m still wearing mine when going to the grocery store or wherever. This is due to habit and caution and yes, keeping it real, I’ve come to sorta like wearing a mask. I don’t actually mind having half my face concealed. (Yes, this really means, less, even no makeup needed. Pesky wrinkles hidden. No forced smiles required. And so on.) Turns out, I kinda like going incognito. Who knew?

What kind of normal is that?

So again, back to normal, new normal, reentry – what do we call this awkward time? And awkward it is.

This is yet another parallel between Pandemic World and Cancer World.

Those of us thrown into the chaos that is Cancer, have undoubtedly all heard the phrase, find your new normal.

Yeah, maybe you can find it. But maybe not.

You might want to read, Life Under the New Normal Umbrella.

Regardless, upon finishing cancer treatment, if you are “lucky” enough to finish cancer treatment, you do go through what IMO, is more accurately a reentry phase. Even those with metastatic disease go through a reentry phase as well. Albeit a very different sort.

Basically, reentry requires you to get back on your own two feet and figure shit out. Or at least try to.

It’s also known as survivorship.

So, what’s my point?

I think it’s this:

We’re not going back to pre-pandemic normal. Not entirely anyway. That old normal, whatever it was, is gone.

For example, I will eventually stop wearing a mask, but I will likely be carrying one around in my purse for quite some time. Maybe even for good. Ditto for hand sanitizer. Not sure when, or even if, I’ll be shaking hands upon meeting new people in the future. For sure, I will be more tuned in when I hear about virus outbreaks anywhere in the world. And I will advocate harder to be sure every American gets access to quality healthcare.

Just like with cancer. You can’t go back.

New normal. Okay. Maybe that works. Maybe not.

Btw, I never liked the phrase new normal in Cancer Land either.

New normal post pandemic will mean different things to different people. Your new normal might look quite different from my new normal. Those who have lost loved ones and those who’ve experienced other losses, will have a very different, more painful and more difficult new normal than mine. Calling their new normal any kind of normal seems inappropriate and insensitive because normal, it will not be.

We need to remember the losses. We cannot become numb.

Reentry seems like a better fitting word in both scenarios.

I mean, whether you speaking about Cancer World or Pandemic World, we do have to reenter in both cases.

And then, there are my friends with metastatic breast cancer who are never far from my mind. Throughout the pandemic months, many have remarked about how they’ve had to be extremely cautious when going to medical appointments and participating in social activities way before the pandemic hit and will continue to do so from here on out – probably long after the rest of us have tossed aside our masks.

Post pandemic, metsters (and other immune-compromised individuals) will continue to be highly vulnerable. They’ll have no choice about continuing to take extra precautions to protect themselves. But they, too, will be in reentry mode, nonetheless. We all will be.

And just as with cancer, there is no right way to do any of this reentry stuff. You can take your time, if want to.

I get to do reentry my way.

So do you.

A good dose (pun intended) of kindness and patience for others, as well as for ourselves, as we muddle through reentry, seems in order.

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Whether referring to cancer or the pandemic, how do you feel about the phrase “new normal”?

Are there “pandemic behaviors” you intend to continue?

Do you see the parallel here, too, or not at all?

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