What is normal anyway?


Home sweet home. After four weeks in hospital it was an overwhelming relief to walk through the doors to our home. The familiar mess in the lounge room, our messy bed, children’s books strewn across the floor and one very pathetic feline! The problem with being home though is that often people assume that everything is back to normal. I know that we’ll settle into a new ‘normal’ but our life is so far from what we know as normal. A psychologist described it as a ‘complex and challenging situation’. She’s not wrong.

To say our life is complex these days is pretty accurate. Naomi is dealing with being the only one fully capable of adult responsibility and action. She has to do the housework, the driving, a lot of the parenting, the ferrying to and fro, the groceries, the Christmas shopping, caring for me, dressing my wounds not to mention dealing with the exhaustion the above leads to as well as fitting in time for herself and processing the emotions that go with all of this and the aftermath of my surgery and contemplating life as a widow if I didn’t make it.

I have to learn what my new normal is. I am not working, I can’t parent how I want to, I can’t do too much physical activity, I have open wounds that require dressing every two days but sometimes every day, I can’t help out much at home no matter how much I want to, I am reliant on others to do things for me (or help me do them), I nap regularly because my body needs the rest and although I am technically free from cancer and should be looking forward with positivity I still have 4-6 months of chemo to face for a cancer that doesn’t always respond to chemo. Then there are the random emotional breakdowns because my ileostomy leaked or worrying people will be able to see my ileostomy bag through my clothes or because all I want is to swim in the beach but I can’t or because my body now looks like a sewing project or because I want to ease my girlfriend’s exhaustion but can’t.

The little dude has one parent who cannot play with him much due to recovery from surgery and another who is time poor because everything relies on them. He has watched me go through a surgery he can’t understand and is riddled with guilt whenever he is a bit rough and hurts me. He is sick and tired of attending doctors appointments and of long drives and of parents who are easily cranky because, well… life.

And then we are all (well, Naomi and I anyway!) trying to deal with and understand how the others are coping without losing our shit in the process.

I remember when I started chemo and was told about peripheral neuropathy and the sensitivity to temperatures I was told I couldn’t do the dishes. I was so excited to get out of a household chore with a completely legitimate reason. It’s hard to believe that right now, I’d love to do housework. I’d love to re-stack the little dude’s bookshelf and wash the floors and sort the linen cupboard. Truly. But I can’t physically do it. I can’t bend a lot due to part of my scar opening up and I’m supposed to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting until the scar has healed to avoid both hernias and the scar splitting more. Some days I still get tired quickly so I’m worn out easily and my back is still causing havoc.

With few exceptions, Naomi has to do everything. And whilst she has handled this in a truly extraordinary way, I hate that I have to ask for help. Why can’t I just do it myself?

Plenty have people have offered help and have helped out in so many ways. But often, when we need help the most it’s not possible. Most people work, have their own children – normal everyday things they can’t drop just to do our dishes or hang out the washing that has now gone through the machine three days in a row because Naomi doesn’t get a chance to hang it out.

So normal for us right now is exhausted chaos. It will change. And there will be many versions of normal before it settles, if it settles. In my naivety I had hoped being home would mean I had recovered enough to be helpful. Hopefully once my wound has healed and I can move more freely we can get to a point where we’re not all so exhausted but until then, nap anyone?

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