My New Norm

08/03/2021 By Lisa DeSantis

You’re moving along in your life, going about your business of the day to day grind and complaining about what’s not going smoothly in your life. And in one fell swoop the Universe decides to let you in on it’s plan. For you. That you did not make. Not even close.

I will never forget sitting at my table in August 2017. I was crying and saying how unrecognizable my life was! How things were just awful. You see, my mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in June 2017. Things around me felt like they were slipping completely out of my control. My family. My career. My friendships. My relationship. This was the moment the universe decided to step in to give me a kick in the teeth. On August 29, 2017, I went in to the ER because of chest pains. What I would find out on this day would truly change my life, and subsequently change the person I was.

The doctor came in and said well we found it! He was so excited! I was thinking, “Cool! They found what’s wrong! How quick!” Well, what they found was a mass in my left lung. “Um…what??? The???” I started yelling at this boy genius and said that’s wrong! My mom has lung cancer! Not me, you idiot! I don’t even smoke! I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t hear what the pulmonologist proceeded to tell me about what they found. I felt like things were crushing down around me. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. My sister was there. Yes the same sister who’s mother has cancer. My boyfriend, Bart, was there. We’d only been dating for 8 months. What a way to show a guy what a great idea it was to date me! I was then sent home to wait. “I’m sorry…what?! I have to go home?? I have to deal with this gigantic unknown?? What?!” My only coherent thought I can remember is I don’t want to leave my boys. I can’t die.

My boys…Joey, 20 and Sammy, 17. Joey had recently started at his first job and was loving it! I had just dropped Sammy off at college for his first semester! He was embarking on a wonderful new adventure. I thought I was too. Well, I was. But my journey would be nothing as I thought. The Universe made sure of that. One thing that I need to admit is that telling my sons was and will always be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

For the next few weeks, I went for tests. After tests. After tests. In the end they found I had stage 4 lung cancer. It had spread to my bones. My cancer and my mother’s cancer is different types. But how bizarre is this? How “bleeping” bizarre?! Throughout my diagnosis, one thing that became incredibly clear was that I was loved. Truly loved. By so many. The people who embraced me during my darkest times are angels on earth to me. They reached for me when I felt unreachable. They gave me hope when I felt completely hopeless. They made me laugh, and continue to do so when I feel there’s nothing to laugh about. Truly angels on earth. I am lucky in the sense that I have been given the opportunity to feel my own mortality and now realize the importance of saying I love you whenever I can.

And so, my journey embarks. There was a lot to digest. Many options…thank God. My treatment seems to be keeping the cancer shrunk and at bay. I will never be truly cancer free and that’s an amazing amount of crap to swallow. My treatment causes side effects that are…well…weird, for lack of a better word. It seems the Universe has a sense of humor while taking me on this journey. Acne. Lots of acne. I simply was beside myself with all the acne. Yes yes yes. I know I have cancer and I know this medication is going to help me. But acne? It’s under control…thank goodness. And don’t get me started on the stomach side effects. Um…just don’t. I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I have these pretty severe side effects, this means the medicine is working. My doctor, whom is amazing and really is a genius, was simply elated with these side effects. Quick note here, while he’s amazing and is a genius, his sense of humor didn’t amuse me on this topic.

I stand here, five months into this journey, changing everyday. Who I was is not who I’ll ever be again. I struggle, daily, accepting this new norm. This new life and who I am now, I don’t recognize. How ironic. What was important months ago seems not so much anymore. I’d rather not talk about it day to day and I thoroughly enjoy listening to other’s problems. It just keeps some sort of normality in my life.

My journey is a fight. A daily fight. I fight to kick this cancer out of my body, yes, but my biggest fight is to be here for my sons. They are my motivation to fight. To have hope. To keep moving forward on this journey that the Universe demanded I needed 5 months ago.

Note from the Author

This was written in August 2018. I continue my fight and continue living my best life with my family and friends. My diagnosis was what I needed to take a good look in the mirror and make life changes I have always known I needed to make. I am always aware of my cancer, but am learning that my priority is helping others and myself be at peace and feel the love that is all around us.

About Lisa

Lisa DeSantis was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer in 2017. That diagnosis changed her life in unimaginable ways. She was 48 at the time. Lisa has two amazing sons, Joey and Sammy. They are her “why” every single day.  She now makes herself a priority daily,  both physically and mentally. Lisa has an amazing fiancé, sister and nephew, and friends who stand with me through my journey. She is a personal coach. Lisa’s goal is to help others going through a similar journey or one unique to them, so they feel they can live with cancer. The most important part of her journey is to make every day count. You can connect to Lisa on Instagram at @lisad1969 and @nextstepspersonalcoach.

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