How do you Measure Normality?

7 Sep


You could measure it in terms of crazy versus sane – some people say that one in four people is crazy, so if you look around and your three best friends are normal, you must not be.  You could also measure it according to what you see on “reality TV” – if you don’t behave like them, you’re normal.  Or you could define it as fitting in with everyone else.

Once I was diagnosed with cancer, my definition of “normal” became “being able to do the everyday tasks that healthy people do”.

The first time I felt “normal” was a few weeks after I was left on my own. I finally had the opportunity to go see the latest Harry Potter movie. In the movie theater. Like a “normal” (a.k.a “healthy”) person. I went with my friend Sarah, who had gone with me to see all the other Harry Potter releases in Geneva during our time there.  This time she had waited for me, as the movie had come out while I was still in the hospital.  I was as nervous as I was excited, though — it was the first non-doctor-related outing I’d had in weeks, but I was also worried about my vision.  My chemo had been making me see strange, flashing lights out of the corners of my eyes, and I was worried that the flashing lights in the movie theater might make me pass out or have a seizure.  It was also the first time ever that I’d gone to the movies and not eaten popcorn — the chemo had altered my sense of taste so much that I couldn’t taste salt at all, and savory foods had very little flavor, as well.  Popcorn just tasted like rough, flavorless cardboard in my mouth, so I snuck in a chocolate bar with cherry-, orange-, and lemon-flavored crème filling instead.

After the movie, we had a picnic in the park with our school friend Rosie, an English girl who liked to tease us about our American accent when we said the word “water”. That was when I discovered that I couldn’t taste salami and Emmenthal (one of my favorite snacks), either.  Still, it felt good to get out in the fresh air, even if I did have to leave early in order to get home before dark (the strange, chemo-induced flashing lights grew worse at night, making me nervous that I might lose my balance or miss seeing a tram or a bicyclist as I crossed the road).

It was a major accomplishment, since it was the end of being freaked out and a return to confident independence.


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