Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The New Normal

In 2009, when the greatest recession since the Great Depression was still new news, the famous bond manager, Bill Gross, coined a term to describe the near-term future of the world economy. He predicted we would enter an era he called, "The New Normal," in which the economic growth rate would be slower.

Bill Gross, Co-chief Investment Officer of PIMCO, deep in contemplation
So far, his prediction has come true. The world economy has yet to stomp on the accelerator peddle. Recent headlines include concerns over Greece's and Italy's solvency, the U.S.'s debate over raising its debt ceiling, and a jump in U.S. unemployment. At some point, this bumpy country lane should converge with a highway, and we will accelerate past Gross's New Normal.

Anyone who's been diagnosed with cancer, or has experienced another life-changing event, faces her own era of a New Normal.
 I realized that during my first week in the hospital, though that period wasn't the new status quo for me. That was more akin to Lehman Brothers' going bankrupt and the financial and automotive sectors melting down. For both the economy and for me, New Normal is the period after the initial disruption- the recovery.

My New Normal era includes lots of needles and nausea. It also includes the unexpected and a need to be vigilant. I went to work for the first time on Monday, and enjoyed a day of Old Normal. Hope gave me a tour of our new office. I saw my bosses and chatted with colleagues. I gathered the files I'll need over the next few weeks. But by the time I'd gotten home, the pain that had started over the weekend had returned and increased. I barely slept Monday night because of it. Yesterday, instead of going to work, like I'd planned, I was back at the office for my second job (fighting cancer).

My oncologist sent me to the hospital for a CT Scan to make sure I'm not having another clotting issue, like I had with my liver in the hospital. As I forced down the bottles of Barium tracer before the procedure, I thought about how this was supposed to be my first week of vacation from the medical appointments. Instead of having one planned blood work appointment this week, I now have three visits (each with its own needles) plus the CT Scan. At first the thought depressed me. Then I reminded myself that during this recovery era, I need to accept my New Normal, and roll with it.

I get the CT Scan results today. Right now I'm sitting in the waiting lounge at the cancer center. When it's my turn to meet with Dr. Goldberg, I'll get the results. Hopefully, and most likely, the scan will show I'm fine, and I will be back at work tomorrow.

As I get further through my treatment plan, and pass more remission tests, my New Normal will begin to look more like my Old Normal. From the outside, it will look like I have my old life back. I can't wait for that. But it won't be a full return to Old Normal. Instead, I'll have a New Old Normal, in which I'll be more vigilant about my health, and the little moments will be just a bit more special. Tomorrow is Ryan's and my anniversary. This year, it has just a bit more meaning. And I've already recorded in Katelyn's baby book the play tea party she and I had last weekend, including the detail about her breaking the green saucer into three pieces when she slammed her teacup onto it. Just like chemo, super glue can work wonders.

For anyone who's still adjusting to a New Normal, or has already progressed to a New Old Normal, I hope the tough aspects are balanced with moments as special as Katelyn's and my repair of a shattered teacup saucer. The green saucer no longer looks as pretty as the orange, blue, and yellow, but it's now my favorite.