Youth Cancer

Getting Back to "Normal"

For people who have been through a life threatening illness, the thought of returning to life just as it was pre-cancer may seem unrealistic – even ridiculous!

What exactly is a 'normal' life now?

  • People living with cancer and those around them have experienced overwhelming hardships that undoubtedly changed them forever.
  • At the risk of stating the obvious, life has seriously changed.
  • In view of all this change, it’s often better to think about redefining life than reconstructing it. By starting a new chapter of your life, you’re free to begin again however you want. And you’re free of the pressures that come with trying to return to normal (as it used to be).


Redefining ordinary life after confronting and tackling cancer may mean.......

  • Focusing on the present and hoping for a good future.
  • Embracing life and celebrating milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and so on.
  • Spending time experimenting with new routines and finding out what works for the whole family. This may be particularly important if it is your parent who has recovered from cancer.
  • Exploring new opportunities for personal and professional development.
  • Continuing to work together as a family by finding ways to continue to support each other.
  • Acknowledging the emotions that come with survivorship through things like anniversaries of diagnosis, or the deaths of other cancer patients.
  • Focusing on the positive changes that have enriched your lifestyle.
  • Becoming a member of CanTeen or another cancer support group.
  • Acknowledging the amount of change, loss and grief that has occurred as a result of cancer.
  • Sharing personal experiences and helping other young people living with cancer.
  • Focusing on living a healthy lifestyle by caring for and being aware of your body.


Although it can be a really annoying statement, there is some truth in the saying “time is a great healer”. The good news is that most young people living with cancer do get to the point where cancer no longer consumes their life, thoughts and behaviour.

The cancer experience will eventually be a factor that continues to help shape your lives, but it no longer controls it.

What if other people think I should be back to 'normal' now?

  • You, your friends, your family or your employer may expect that life should just return to normal now that cancer is gone from the body. You may hear statements such as “you have to get over it” or “it’s time to move on”. This just isn't how things work.
  • When cancer is gone from the body, its repurcussions still remain. There are emotional, psychological and even practical after-effects in your day to day life.
  • A lot of us think that grief only occurs with a powerful loss such as death, but grief is also felt when people experience a life threatening illnesses and the losses associated with life such as illness, disability, loss of independence, dreams and relationships.
  • If you feel like others are pushing you, explain to them that this isn't something that's over for you. It's still there and you need some space and time to cope with it in your own way.

If you feel like you aren't coping, understand that this is okay – normal, even – and get yourself some help.