Skip to Content

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.

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?

Carol Casinelli

Monday 14th of June 2021

Have CIPN FOR 1 1/2 years 24/7. Have spent a fortune on shoes and still no luck. Feet constantly freezing, numb, tingly and painful to walk on. My 5th out of 6 treatments attacked my body and put me in critical condition. Lucky to be here. Knowing what I know now, I think I would have refused chemo. Can’t do simple things like walk thru a zoo. Gabapentin and duloxetine did not help nor CBD cream or capsaicin. Very discouraged being told there is nothing they can do. I have googled all I can think of. Cannot find any trials. My two drugs were both on list of causing this, but I wasn’t told this.


Wednesday 16th of June 2021

Carol, I'm sorry you are dealing with CIPN. I understand why you feel discouraged. I hope you can eventually find some relief. In the meantime, keep pressing your medical team to get suggestions for things to try.


Thursday 3rd of June 2021

I hate the phrase "new normal" but I love the North Shore! I love the South Shore, too. Lake Superior is my happy place.


Friday 4th of June 2021

Bonnie, Lake Superior is exactly that, superior. And yeah, the phrase "new normal", not a fan either. Thanks for reading and commenting too.


Wednesday 2nd of June 2021 normal (I despise that phrase)................ But I don't always want normal......... Sometimes I want something new and exciting, even if it is just for a few minutes or days. Normal can be boring, but normal can be comforting, too.......................... I don't think I am doing normal correctly, there is a lot of pressure to be normal.................. I am pretty sure I screwed that up yesterday, or the day before............ not sure when, but I must have............ Then I read the news.........., yes, on the internet......and I am finding it hard to find normal........ the fact that nothing is normal is a new normal?? But, then again, who am I to say what is normal or not? I don't think "most" of us will be normal after this global pandemic. But so many are insisting that it was no big deal, that we are all a bunch of sissies for hiding in our houses because we don't want to get sick and die. We should all just "snap out of it for cripes sake". Let's just get back to normal already! Hmmm, yah..........., might be a parallel between cancer and covid there......

But so many of us are realizing that is wasn't normal before. And how can we move forward if we don't acknowledge that first?

It seems as if normal means we don't talk about whatever it is that is not normal........

All right, I'll stop babbling incoherently.......................

Yay Nancy! You got to "go away'! I just booked a new for me vacation rental for this September! I can't wait to go away! It is a mighty fine little hermitage on the rocky coast of Maine amongst the pines.

I have no problem being a hermit....................... Covid made me "normal" being a hermit............. I have no problem wearing a mask either. It hides my rosacea and peri oral dermatitis flareups I get at the most inopportune times. I keep practicing smiling with my eyes. I'm fine with that.

But, the other day I was masked and walked into my local downtown pharmacy, (where everyone knows your name), and the young man who always jokes around with me, whispered "are you fully vaccinated? Of course, I said, had it done here, and he said I could take off my mask if I wanted................. I didn't know how to feel about I tried it, I slowly lowered it like I was doing a strip tease, and I still didn't know how I felt about it................. I felt naked..........................that's how I felt........ weird............. I got the hell out of there as fast as I could........................

I don't knoooowwww......., it's gonna take me a while................ This reentry thing is not gonna be fast or easy for me.............

So, I think I will just hang about in my back yard, and stop and smell my deeply pink, deeply fragrant roses that sends your mind reeling with pleasantness and smiles for miles........... AHhhhh......The best mood enhancer there is!


Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Tarzangela, Yeah, normal is such a relative thing. And what you said here: "the fact that nothing is normal is the new normal?" You might be spot on about that. As it sounds like it is for you, it's gonna take me awhile to toss aside my mask. It's a process, this reentry. Lots of mask wearing still going on around here, and I'm pretty sure it's not the unvaccinated people wearing them. I'm glad you got that getaway booked. We sure enjoyed ours, brief though it was. In the meantime, enjoy that backyard! Thank you for reading and for sharing some insights on "normal". Whatever that is.

Abigail Johnston

Wednesday 2nd of June 2021

Since there is no way to know who is vaccinated and my immune system is sucky and I know lots of people with low immune systems who have already lost all antibodies, we haven’t re-entered society hardly at all. Yes, more social gatherings with people who we trust are vaccinated and some hugs with the same people we can trust but overall, still masking, still extra sanitizing, still being super careful. I don’t See that changing any time soon.


Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Abigail, I know you were taking precautions before the pandemic, have been during the pandemic and will be long after the pandemic. A strong immune system is no small thing. As you know. Enjoy those gatherings and hugs with those people you trust. Thank you for taking time to comment.

%d bloggers like this: