Sunday, March 01, 2009

Adjusting to A New Normal

In consoling a cancer patient, many people will compare dying of cancer to dying of accident. They will say something like this: Everybody will die, we just don’t know when and how. Some healthy people might die of accident.

To me, dying of accident and dying of cancer is different. Accident does not follow you around. You don’t think about it all the time. You don’t have to be on strict diet or change your lifestyle. If you survive an accident, its all behind you and you can get on with your life even if you have to adjust to a new normal. With cancer, its different. Surviving cancer means being worried all the time that cancer might come back to haunt you! Many people would advise cancer survivors not to think about it but as pointed out by a friend who is also an oral cancer survivor, it is like asking us to ignore an elephant which is standing right in front of you. And I would say, being struck with cancer particularly oral cancer, a big chunk of life is compromised. Life will never be the same again. You’ll have to accept and live with a new normal for the rest of your life. A new normal for an oral cancer patient like me would be slurring speech, fruits and vegetable diet, and developing a whole new concept of eating. Eat to live or live to eat? Obviously for me along with my miss Peggy it would be the former. Eat to keep on surviving… I mean dying is not in my plan unless it is time for me to go.

In Malaysia, unlike breast cancer, oral cancer is still foreign to many people. Take my housing area for instance, out of 5 cancer cases, 4 are breast cancer. I guess that’s why there is not enough effort to support oral cancer survivors to get on with their life. Speech, eating and swallowing therapies are not given to survivors on a regular basis. A lot of things depend solely on the patients themselves. Being tongueless, I have to figure out myself how to maneuver food into the throat or how to make myself more understandable. Sometimes, its hard especially over the phone. Besides that, I depend a lot on fellow survivors on the Mouth Cancer Forum and the Oral Cancer Forum for information on various issues after finishing surgeries and treatments. These are the information such as neck exercises, what to expect throughout radiotherapy and chemotherapy and what can be done to improve utterances which I have not been able to get from the doctors and nurses. Reading through the profiles of the members, I can safely say that I am the only Malaysian member.

This morning, I went to a shop that I used to go before I was blessed with cancer. The lady who owns the shop remarked that I'd lost so much weight. I said that I am now slowly gaining my weight and on liquid diet. Then, she said that I used to be really talkative. Well, I said this is the new me having to lead a new normal life. I am still talkative but in a different way. I am pretty much the same person...

I know that I can never get back 100% percent of what I had before. However, getting back 80% of it is good enough for me. If in the long run I can get another 10%, then, I consider that as a bonus....

Bye, for now.

"Life is too short, but intend to grow old gracefully"


Mak Teh said...

Alhamdulillah! Sharifah dah semakin sihat hingga tahap 80% tu dikira sangat baguslah!

Semoga anda akan terus sihat dan sentiasa dirahmatiNYA.

Anonymous said...

Alhamdulillah....back to normal even new.