Randi Rentz – Getting Back to the New Normal

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a free teleconference, “Beyond Treatment: Understanding Your New Normal,” featuring Susan Hong, MD, MPH, FACP. The staff at LBBC often hears  from survivors that getting back to their regular lives can be challenging after treatment and the creation of a “new normal” is key to moving on. Join the LBBC Blog in welcoming back Randi Rentz, as she shares her “new normal.”

Normal. What is the “new normal” after breast cancer? Four years after completing my treatment, I am at it again, launching a web site that has taken many years to get underway, working full-time as a special education teacher in the area of Asperger’s, and consulting in the evenings. Again I’m risking financial security, working long hours, and insisting on having fun.

The point is, no matter what happens, I keep going on, making adjustments that fit my life. I like my life. While I was traveling in the scary tunnel of “Cancerville,” I did what most women do—I tried to maintain the normal routine of my life as much as possible. When a friend emailed me during my treatment, she wrote I was “crazy as ever,” which made me overjoyed.

Meanwhile, the world outside my “pink bubble” was going on as it always had. It was fast paced, taxing, demanding, and it was pretty draining. I have to admit, when I was finally able to rejoin it, it was pretty liberating.

I was thrilled to be able to go back to many of the same issues I’ve been dealing with for my whole life. I can say that I do have a greater perspective on what’s really important. I still sweat the small stuff. That’s just who I am. In my life, the small stuff adds up to the big picture that is my life and existence.

Although I may be in a new, slightly modified package, I am still whole, and unwilling to waste my time. This, too, is the same attitude I had before breast cancer. I was basically a happy positive person before breast cancer, and after it. Breast cancer just spelled out who and what I am.

Like most women I’ve spoken to, I can honestly say I eat better now (although I still eat desserts). I eat organic foods whenever possible, and I don’t eat fish full of chemicals or mercury. I never touch dairy products that were produced using hormones. And I try to avoid cosmetics that contain parabens, which mimic estrogen and just can’t be good for you.

Okay, I’ll admit I still use dye to color my hair and nail polish, both of which have evil ingredients in them, but I’m doing what I can. I take vitamins, limit my alcohol intake and exercise every day for an hour.

If you know me, that last part about regular exercise, is a total fabrication. But I do take yoga and/or a barre class when I can, and I try to do cardio two to three times a week.

Shocked?  Yeah, me too.

To learn more about Randi, peruse her blog, or read excepts from her book, Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!, you can visit her website.

8 thoughts on “Randi Rentz – Getting Back to the New Normal

  1. Randi, thank you for sharing. I am an 8 year survivor of breast cancer and like you am pushing the envelope on working, playing and eating. I do eat healthy, (most of the time) exercise (walk 3-5 miles per day) and work hard at my job. However, it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many of US around. I know at least 10 people who are in my networking circle or close friends that were or have been diagnosed. My point is to make EVERYONE aware that this disease is really on the rise and please do self breast exams. They work! Debra Mathias

  2. dear randi – i couldn’t find a link to your blog, but enjoyed and valued this post. i am on the threshold of remission from St IV metastatic breast cancer, just completed radiation after successful chemo and surgery. i was diagnosed in dec. 2011, in the midst of being a cg for my husband, diagnosed in 2009 with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. he went through horrific surgeries to repair/rebuild one leg, 2 stem cell transplants, and still suffered from depression from all the losses and trauma resulting from his journey to achieve remmission. i was a hospice nurse for nearly 30 years, and suddenly found myself, first with caring for my husband with cancer, then dealing my own cancer. while my husband was most gravely ill, finding ways to cope was a mission to preserve our mental, emotional, and physical sanity/ survival. we practiced living one day at a time, sometimes just one hour at a time. we clung to the joy of a love shared for 42 years, the extraordinary support of our children, grandchildren,dear family and friends. we learned that cultivating a deep sense of appreciation for every day of a life well-lived as best as we were able, extending a helping hand of support to others, paying it forward for all the wonderful care, love and kindness of loved ones and perfect strangers were the most important aspects of life for us.

    now we have had 9 months since my diagnosis to continue to practice all we learned during the worst and darkest days of dealing with my husband’s cancer. we have had our moments – still some times of feeling disbelief that BOTH OF US – really? seriously?! had been unceremoniously been inducted into the cancer club.

    here’s the thing. from the first time i heard the term, “new normal”, though i totally got it, i was convinced it was not for us. we had long ago realized that the life we once lived was gone, and we were determined to find another – one that we would chose for ourselves with fresh eyes, a keen sense of how we wanted to move forward, that included a renewed sense of adventure, and one that could more closely relate with our current hopes and dreams. we found that the term, “new normal”, smacked of constant references to our former life, and that it felt like a condition being imposed upon us (hello? – been there, done that – with CANCER – TIMES TWO!!).

    since my diagnosis, my husband has successfuly beat his depression, and worked through the many issues of loss and trauma. we are now on pretty equal footing with remission, though that phase, we found, can have it’s own pitfalls of feeling lost and doubtful. but we are happy to be one another’s caregiver whenever one or the other of us feels even a little beaten up. it’s been a gift to truly be able to empathize and understand both roles of being a cancer patient, and a caregiver to a cancer patient – and has given us a truly unique perspective on the positive issues of advocacy for one another, empathy, and patience and the not so positive ones of frustration and logistics (2 cancer centers, one specialty center for transplant specialists and myeloma, 20 + physicians and dueling calendars for all things medical). so much routine, so many unwanted detours and diversions from what we thought life would be .

    so…each time we would encouter the term “new normal” we felt there must be another phrase that would ring much more true to what fit us. one day, the words, Life Reinvented popped into my head. it fit! it was exactly what we were looking for! it was US!
    invention! yes! we will invent for ourselves trying on new ways of doing things. going to new places in caring for ourselves, experimenting with more healthy life-styles. but without all the shoulda, coulda, woulda baggage. if it works, we embrace it. if we tire of it, we find another path. and so it goes -with relationships, travels, aquiring new interests, facing new challenges with a sense of curiousity, joy and thankfulness that we need not be held to shame, blame or regret if we wish to change our minds. in short, a life SO NOT a life defined by cancer.

    i was recently a guest blogger on http://www.afreshchapter. written by terri wingham, and included my take on life reinvented and new normal. i hope you and the other readers will have time to take a peak at my post to see what i shared. and please understand that i in no way disparage anyone who embraces the “new normal”. but i do feel that certain terms have their birth in clinical settings, and that they don’t always give a satisfactory flavor to what people in the real world are dealing with. perhaps there will be others who have also coined a word or term for what they wish their lives moving forward will be all about. i, for one, would love to hear all about them.

    warm hugs,

    hugh and karen sutherland

  3. I admire that you can share such an intimate and vulnerable experience. My family has a history of breast cancer with my great aunt undergoing a lumpectomy less than two months ago. Feeling overwhelmed and wanting to have a sense of control back in my life, I decided to get involved with the breast cancer nonprofit community. It has given me the opportunity to feel as though I am fighting this disease right along my family and friends who are continuing their journey with the disease.

    I wanted to let you know that The Keep A Breast Foundation were nominated for a $250,000 Chase Community Giving grant. This youth-focused nonprofit organization educates about cancer prevention, early detection, and of cancer-causing toxins in the environment. The recipient is determined by votes and winning would mean that they could continue their awesome work in education. Would you be so kind as to help them get the word out? Polls close September 19th. People can VOTE here: http://bit.ly/TrduBz
    Thank You!!


  4. I really hate the term “new normal.” To me, it comes with an implied acceptance or expectation of something less than you had before.

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