So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

I remember the moment. The phone call. Raw. Icy cold. The moment my heart stopped. The moment my world spun off its axis and never quite righted itself again.

“It’s not good news, honey. The cancer is back and it’s spread.”

I saw a therapist once. While my mom battled breast cancer for the third, and final time. Her body ravaged by the disease, gripped in its deadly talons, a shadow of who she used to be.

“It’s the new normal,” the therapist told me, as if this was enough to guide me to acceptance. It wasn’t.

The new normal. I’ve grown to hate that term. What is normal about your body turning against itself, eating you from the inside out? What is normal about watching someone you love slowly fading away before your eyes? What is normal about wanting to drive into a concrete barrier to stop the pain that is ripping your heart to shreds? I just wanted to go back to the old normal. But desperately wishing for something doesn’t always make it so. I couldn’t go back. Neither could my mom. Cancer had stolen that normal. That normal was gone. In the flash of a moment.

The new normal lasted five years. A normal that was anything but. A normal that consisted of radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and blood transfusions. Months spent in the hospital trying to get the pain under control. A normal that revolved around endless doctor’s appointments and tests. Poking, prodding. The countdown to the end. I was trapped on a roller coaster I desperately wanted off of but, at the same time, I was clinging tightly to the handlebar, willing it to keep going. Knowing that when it stopped, there was no starting it again.

I grew to accept that new normal but never embrace it. It was full of so many moments. Dark moments. Moments of intense rage at a disease that was stealing my mom, my person. Moments of unbearable grief that made me forget how to breathe. Moments of guilt so strong I feared it would suffocate me. Moments I felt like not only was I losing my mom, I was losing myself.

But then there were the other moments. Moments I cling to, even now. Moments of gratitude for the time we did share. Moments of love, quiet and still, in the midst of such deafening sorrow. Moments of peace and joy amongst the chaos and pain. Moments of laughter, a rainbow through the tears. And then one day, in a moment, the new normal slipped into the old normal. The roller coaster stopped and I was forced to get off. Forced to face another new normal. This one without my mom. I desperately wanted to go back. Back to the normal that I hated. Back to a normal where my mom still existed.

I am still adjusting to this new, new normal. One where she is no longer here. I wonder, what does normal even look like anymore? What defines normal? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, normal is “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.” But is it? What is a regular pattern for life? You are born, you live, you die. But what happens within that is different for all of us. No two journeys are the same. No two normals are the same. Who says what is normal? Its only constant is that it is forever evolving and changing.

So I change with it.

With each new normal I have gained a new perspective. A new way of looking at life. A life where I have learned to let the small things go. To ask myself, “Will this matter in a year? A month? A day?”

I carry with me so much gratitude. For my family, my friends, the ones I love. I cherish the days that are boring and mundane, because there is comfort in the ordinary. I work to choose happiness because I know the agony of grief that strips you raw, leaving scars that never fully heal.

I write letters to my young children for them to read when they are older. About their milestones, their adventures, their stories, their lives. But these letters? They are also for me. So I won’t forget the moments that make up my normal now. I remind myself daily to stay in this moment. This moment of the everyday. Because in a moment, this new normal could fade into the old.

I hug my kids a little tighter. I gaze upon their faces a little longer. I say I love you a little more often. Because this new normal? It will change, too. And so will I.

Heidi Hamm

Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of twin boys who are nothing alike, and their older sister, who won’t admit that she really does like 80s music. She loves bookstores, Starbucks and peanut butter. You can find her on Facebook

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading

I’ll Never Go To a Seafood Restaurant With Her Again

In: Cancer, Grief
Woman alone at table

I am 19 years old and it is the smack dab middle of summer and I am sitting outside—al fresco—at my parents’ favorite restaurant at a small, round, wrought iron table on an uneven slab of cobblestone bricks. Ropes of twinkle lights hang above our heads and spool in circles around lush green plants in terra cotta pots in the corners of the courtyard. The stemware here is so thin I imagine one gust of air from a sneeze might shatter my glass into a million tiny pieces. RELATED: Don’t Take Your Mom For Granted—I’d Give Anything to Have Mine...

Keep Reading

An Open Letter To the New Cancer Mom

In: Cancer, Child, Loss, Motherhood
Oncology room childhood cancer

This is an open letter to the early days me—when my son’s cancer diagnosis was first spoken over him—and to any other cancer moms out there drifting, surviving, and rising through the trauma. The early days, those raw, pouring, dripping emotions fresh from Elijah’s diagnosis day, 2-year-old Elijah, my son. “It’s leukemia,” said the kind-eyed ER physician. His eyes were so big and brown, mirroring Elijah’s signature feature. Another signature feature of Elijah’s—his long curly beautifully golden hair—soon to be falling on pillows, on rugs, in bathtub drains, until the day he bravely said I am ready to shave it...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Something I Carry With Me Now

In: Cancer, Living
Woman showing scar on chest, black-and-white photo

Two years ago in the winter of 2019, I found out I had breast cancer. I was a young new mother and completely terrified. Fast forward to today and I am healthy, have an amazing thriving two-year-old, and am planning my wedding with my perfectly imperfect soulmate. My hair has grown back thicker and wavier even than before, my body is my own again. I have found the confidence to build my blossoming writing career from scratch and am happier than I have ever been. You hear about this happening, people turning their lives around after cancer. I’m not the...

Keep Reading

My Mother’s Love Will Never Die

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Mother daughter

The night my mother passed away, my sister and I, along with our families sat by her side. We held her hand as she took her last breath. We talked to her and lingered near her side until they came to take her away. It was so very sacred. I couldn’t believe she was really gone. She had battled uterine cancer and was staying at my sister’s home to be cared for full time for the last four months. I had arrived from out of state only two weeks prior, and we spent every minute together, day and night until...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.