Back to "normal"

Has anyone successfully gotten back their old life??, well with a few minor adjustments anyway.

I keep getting told to slow down and watch what I’m doing. I was diagnosed june 2006 (just before my 40th), had WLE, lymph nodes removed, chemo and rediotherapy. I am now on Tamoxifen and Zolodex (only 6 more of those babies to go thank goodness), and well to be honest I’ve been reading through some of the posts on here and I’m kind of scaring myself.

I didnt really take time off work because i love my job and knew I’d go nuts at home. so that part has mainly stayed the same, although I dont lift if my boss is around cos she’d kill me. i do some lifting if I have to at other times but i know my limits.

Some other things that I’ve been doing that I’m beginning to wonder if i should be are:

waxing/shaving under my arms
Going back to the gym (including weight work but nothing too heavy just enough to tone)
Got the Mirena coil fitted (new relationship), did talk to about 5 doctors before I got it though
Gardening etc as normal
Ironing, though as I live on my own I dont have tons and do try to keep it down.
Wont do two trips with shopping if I can lift it all in one go.
Charge around my life at 90 miles an hour
Chill out in the sun (if we ever get any that is)

I just want my life back, I want to be normal again. Is this possible? Has anyone managed it? Should i stop what I’m doing now?

Sorry for going on, just a bit confused with all the different info.


Hiya Donna
I finished everything in Feb 08 and feel that i’m back to normal. I shave under my arms and carry shopping bags but then I didn’t know that you couldn’t. Is there a reason we shouldn’t be lifting? x

Hi Donna,

Good for you for trying to get back to normal (a good description I’ve heard is finding a ‘new normal’). Just a few comments on your post:

The standard advice is not to shave the armpit where the lymph nodes were taken - but an electric razor is OK. I assume this is to avoid cuts.
Don’t lift anything that strains your arm - it’s not a question of the actual weight, but whether it strains your arm or not. ie over time you can build up what you are capable of.
Goes for ironing too - ie don’t do too much at one go.
Watch the shopping - I think that heavy bags that cut into your fingers are particularly bad
Don’t get sunburnt on your bad arm

All this standard advice is to try to avoid lymphoedema. Speaking as one who has it in my hand, despite taking all the precautions, I would strongly advise you to take care.

Having said that, I try to do as much as I did before, but some things I now do left handed instead of right, and there’s usually someone else around to call on when there is anything heavy to lift (that’s what teenage sons are for!)

You can find a lot of information & advice about lymphoedema in that category

Go for it - you do need to watch out for lymphoedema, but if you spend your whole life never doing anything that might be a problem, you’re going to get bored enough to lie down on the railway tracks and get it over with.
I was first diagnosed back in 1991, by 92 I had taken up scuba diving to go with the motorbiking I already did. Scuba involved some serious weight lifting - which no-one had told me was a bad idea - and some absolutely wonderful times. Within reason, don’t limit yourself, and enjoy as much as you can!


The other thing is about carrying weight is it doesn’t have to be on your arms.

I’ve used proper backpacks and bum bags for years where the weight is mostly on your hips. never liked things cutting into the shoulders anyway.

I’m still doing the chemo but was starting to get more tetchy than a very very tetchy thing and have gone back to work, getting daily excersies etc, yes it does push me over the overtired mark (ok exhaustion is more real a term) but that still feels better than just being a cancer patient.

Roll on Nov when I should just be getting ready to do hormone therapy :slight_smile:

Oh yeah and I’ve had a lot of fun in between the stress of treatment this year too.


I’m “back to normal” as such, bilateral mastectomies and recon, infection problems and reconstruction had to be redone after expanders, so took about 10 months of treatment and surgery etc over 3 years ago. Physically apart from a wonky boob, I suppose I have been back to normal for a long time, but don’t think emotionally after the mastectomies I’ll ever really be myself ever again. Don’t get me wrong, everything just goes on, and you do the same things, enjoy the same things, and generally enjoy life, and love etc, but don’t think I will ever be the same person ever again.

hi Donna

I also had WLE, nodes removed, chemo and rads and now am just on tamoxifen. Physically I am pretty much back to normal. I do shave my armpit but have invested in a proper razor same as OH uses rather than using cheap razors or even ladies razors and I change the blade regularly. I go to the gym but dont lift as heavy weights as I used to. Last week I ran on the treadmill for the first time so was really pleased. I now use my left arm almost automatically for lifting and carrying so its a new normal. i went back to work 10 days after surgery [although later admitted this was ridiculous] and worked 2 weeks out of 3 when on FEC but less on TAX. had a month off at the end of treatment to re-charge but am now back to full time and doing as much as before. I went on holiday to Turkey in July and used factor 50 on that area but lower on the rest of me. I was more comfortable in the shade anyway so it wasn’t really an issue. i had a massage but decided against a Turkish bath although I will have one next time. i have got a cleaner who comes in once a week but then i work full time so thats the trade-off. I do the ironing although have adopted the 10 minute tumble trick to keep it to a minimum. I have definately had to make some changes but am quite used to them and they seem like the norm now.

Psycologically though i am not so good. I am permanantly in fear of it coming back and i hate the physical changes it has caused. I struggle with my weight, look older than I used to and absolutely hate my hair. People are always telling me how lovely it has come back but it is so different and I don’t know how I can love something that has come from cancer. I feel that if I let myself like it I am somehow accepting what happened last year and I can’t. Shallow i know but its important to me and its where i get my confidence from which has taken an almighty bashing.

oh and I really really hate the hot flushes!!!


HI AJXXX, I know exactly where you are coming from, on the outside I am all back to normal (within 1 year) but internally I worry about it coming back and the fact that my body was able to succumb to cancer. It’s so hard to come to terms with it. Since taking Tamoxifen I have developed indigestion and a irratating dry cough, which worries me, so I am now having to have a camera down my throat to check my stomach out; which adds more worry to an already hard situation to cope with. I found that I was ok at first, but the more time has passed, the fear then starts to set in, which I hope in time will decrease.


I’m finding as time is passing I think a lot less about my cancer coming back; I was discharged from the Oncology Clinic on Tuesday and that made me feel really emotional, I’ve had a bit of trouble sleeping this week. Counselling has helped me immensely and I’m seeing the Psychologist again next week as she said she would be interested to see how I feel on the back of my discharge. I am often very inspired by my late Aunty, who had breast cancer when they trialled the first chemo drug way back in the early 70s. Her cancer was in most of her lymph nodes but never came back and she died 2 years ago at the grand old age of 83 having lived a very full and active life. She was of the generation who were young adults during WW2 and never let anything get her down too much. I really think that generation could show us a thing or two about living life to the full.

A lot of my problems stemmed from the way I found out - initially told my test results were all clear, then had a fibroid removed and everything was suddenly very sinister as the tumour had been hidden. Still, I’ve done the treatment and I’m here and well now. I pretty much get on with things as normally as I can and I’m signing up to voluntary work which I doubt I would have done had I not been ill. There is nothing physical that I did before cancer that I don’t do now, the only thing I can think of is that I do need a hand from OH to put sheets and duvet covers on the line. I find yoga strength moves help with the arm.

I decided a while back I didn’t want to go back into administration after going to a disastrous new job back in January which affected my confidence, so I’ve taken the plunge and am now self employed and working with my OH, also studying to be a Web Copywriter and I hope to be doing that for a living from early next year.

I had a very stressful 5 years leading up to my diagnosis with one bad thing leading on to another and the way I see it the biggest fear for most people is getting cancer - been there, done it, got the t-shirt and faced up to it. What could happen that’s worse?

Life is too short for ironing. Finished treatment Dec 07 (had surgery, chemo & rads). Appointment Jan after rads then nothing. Lost in system. Worried as there were 2 of us (same name) attending clinic same time. Had 2 phone hospital myself 2 get6 follow up mammo.

Hi Cherub,

Great to hear of your Aunty!
I am finding it difficult to move on emotionally,I am angry that I had to have this surgery (mast and immed recon) and that I now have horrible scars.I fear the future (despite a great prognosis) I hate the way it changes people around me (some who haven’t been seen for dust)
But I hope to move on gradually and shed the deadwood.We have faced up to cancer ,as Cherub says and got the t-shirt, we are strong but that doesn’t mean we are invincible or that we will ever forget.

I agree with the term ’ a new normal’ and think that we are all different after going through cancer. I think its natural to be concerned / worried about whether the cancer will come back.
After DCIS with a mastectomy & recon I didn’t give it a second thought - then last dec I was dx with it in the nodes and on my spine. If I am honest I do worry about it coming back and the spine mets growing (although it hasn’t shrunk or grown through chemo & rads) and spreading.
I was told that secondary bone from breast is different from prostate and then sec bone which my father had, but also that it could be related.

I am back to ironing with my right arm but being careful and using left. I can’t lay on my right side too much pressure on that area! I can lay on my front now but not for long sessions. I lift but use my left more. I have sailed but in too high winds.

I felt exhausted y’day after my last rads as all treatment is over - it was like all the adrenaline ran out of me. Today at work they gave me a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the end - was lovely! ah

I know I want to enjoy my life now and there are things to look forward to and have fun! I make a list sometimes in my head of things I want to do before I die - that has focussed my mind more…

THanks for being there girls, I will pop back from time to time…
hugs Jan

Thanks for the replies guys. Sorry I havent been back before, my hectic life taking over again.

I must admit I have been carrying on as normal and its only every now and again i think “Should I really be doing this?” Then I read things that I shouldnt be doing, and worry i am going to end up going backwards. i dont like being “ill” with anything. I’m not a good patient. I also worry about aches and pains a lot more than I used to.

Its nice to know that although I dont post very often, there are really nice people on here who will help and offer advice.

Thanks you


Well this is my first time on the forum-so here goes. I was diagnosed aug last year, a month later my daughter was also diagnosed. We went thro our ops together, both had chemo together and have since had further surgery.

Every professional we saw was astounded by our experience, after all how bizarre is it for mother and daughter to go off to chemo and such like together. We stumbled through. At times I felt huge guilt, as a mother I was not there when my daughter needed me most and for her, she had to see me go through this as well, and at times tried to protect me.

Our lives have changed forever and I think I am slowly comming to terms with this new reality. I spend many hours crying for both of us and what we have been through, she, being younger and still having treatment is angry.

Our relationship took on a new intimacy, far beyond the normal boundaries of mother and daughter relationship as we swaped tales of side effects and suchlike… As this experience brought us together during treatment, it has now separated us as we both learn to cope with this whole experience.

For now it seems we cannot discuss B.C. as she wants “normality” and I now realise that we have to find a new way forward. Our lives before B.C. has gone.

Every step of this journey has been so complicated and now my time for healing is complicated by seeing her go throu herceptin. Any time we spend together is fraught and short lived. Oh yes I understand, she can’t bear to be reminded, and seeing me does just that.

My questions to you all are

Will I ever stop crying?

How do I get back a sense of “normality”?

Has anybody had a similar experience to this?

It has been a great comfort to read some of your experiences, I don’t feel so isolated knowing some of you are feeling “out of sorts” and am glad I eventually plucked the courage to join this forum.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Lotus - welcome to the forum and I hope you will feel free to discuss any problem however small you may think it is. We have all been there and we do understand better than anyone else.

You will stop crying as your life resumes a sense of normality. This doesn’t happen overnight but if you motivate yourself to do something new be it take up yoga, a new hobby or something that you may always have had an interest in but never got round to doing, you will feel better. If you feel you are depressed it would be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor.
Your daughter it would appear is trying to put BC behind her, as you should, and look forward to better things. There is life after BC and a very good quality of life. I was first diagnosed in 1990 and it recurred last year in the same breast. Of course there are times when I get odd aches and pains and my immediate reaction is that it is my secondaries but so far so good. I am 69, have 3 children and 5 grandchildren and am determined to be at their weddings! One thing I would say I have done since my first diagnosis is go for it - I took up heliskiing, travel as much as possible, keep very fit with yoga and the gym, eat healthily and enjoy a glass of wine most evenings. I send you a big hug.