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Life after chemo: embracing the roller coaster ride - by Maren Higbee

Maren Higbee, a cancer caregiver,  is an award-winning novelist and an Emmy-nominated producer and writer.

Maren Higbee is an award-winning novelist and an Emmy-nominated producer and writer. In 2017 her husband was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma tumor. She wrote a fictionalized version of their story in her novel, The Cancer Patient’s Wife.

We finally made it back home after my husband Brandon's last round of chemotherapy. No more sleeping on uncomfortable cots or recliners. It was a sunny day, and I couldn't help but feel relieved. We unloaded our bags, walked into the house, and Brandon collapsed on the couch, grateful for the familiar surroundings. "Phew, we made it," I thought to myself. Little did I know, our journey was far from over.

The Lingering "What Ifs"

As Brandon slept, I found myself lost in a whirlwind of thoughts. Despite finishing chemotherapy, we couldn't shake off the lingering worries. He still looked pale, felt weak, and dealt with the never-ending battle against nausea. And don't get me started on the disappearing hair—those stubborn strands were jumping ship faster than rats on the Titanic! It hit me hard: we still had a long road ahead.

Wrestling with Uncertainty

The next day, I got up, got dressed, and headed to work for the first time in what felt like ages. Brandon stayed in bed, catching up on much-needed sleep. During the drive, my mind raced with questions. What if the cancer comes back? What if he never fully recovers? Will the brain fog ever lift, or will we be stuck in this haze forever? And what about his energy levels? Will he ever walk the dogs with me again? The "what ifs" churned my stomach, leaving me feeling uneasy.

New Challenges, New Normal

Months passed, and Brandon's depression lingered as he remained glued to the couch. We found ourselves bickering more than ever before. I pushed for him to get back to normal, not realizing that he needed time to heal mentally and emotionally. He needed to talk to a counselor, start physical therapy, and figure out what he wanted to do for a job. The uncertainty overwhelmed him, while I felt burdened with the weight of responsibility.

Embracing Our Own Healing

Surprisingly, this challenging journey had a hidden lesson: I needed healing too. I had been shouldering most of the responsibilities for months, and it was time to acknowledge my own emotional needs. Therapy became my lifeline, a space to process my fears, anger, and depression. I learned that seeking help doesn't make you weak; it makes you stronger and better equipped to support your loved one.

Finding Our Way, Together

No one tells you how hard life can be after chemotherapy. We had fought a common enemy for so long that we forgot the battle doesn't end with treatment. We had to face the reality that life wouldn't go back to how it was before. We had both endured trauma and needed time to heal. As we sought our "new normal," we discovered the importance of being gentle with ourselves and each other. It was a roller coaster ride, but together, we could navigate the twists and turns.

The completion of chemotherapy might feel like a finish line, but it's just the beginning of a new chapter. Life after chemo throws curveballs that catch us off guard. Embracing this journey means embracing the uncertainty, supporting our loved ones as they heal physically and emotionally, and caring for ourselves along the way. So buckle up, embrace the ride, and remember that you're not alone. Together, we can navigate the ups and downs, finding strength, resilience, and a new appreciation for the healing process.

Disclaimer: Maren posted this blog post on her website and gave us permission to repost it.


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