Lymphoma: I am now a happier, more fulfilled person

Marnie Mathews

When 30 year old Marnie Mathews completed her treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2008, she was unprepared for the emotional trauma and depression that would follow.

Marnie’s experience is common among cancer survivors, which is why the Leukaemia Foundation is committed to caring for patients beyond their treatment and help them to deal with the unique emotional and physical issues which survivors face.

Eight months after she completed treatment, Marnie reached what she described as her ‘rock bottom’. Following is a portion of a blog she posted on the Leukaemia Foundation’s Revive website – a forum which allowed patients and carers to share experiences. She has kindly allowed us to publish this in the hope that it may assist other patients/families/friends going through similar experiences.

Hi to anyone who reads this…..
….Everyone kept telling me how strong I was and how much of an inspiration I was to them. Then I finished chemo and I fell apart emotionally. People thought that because I was in remission and no longer undergoing chemo that the old Marnie was back as she always was. While I tried to explain that I was now angry at so many things, jealous about everything that I once had that no longer seemed to resonate with me, and up and down emotionally – I felt like I was talking another language.

My partner, who incidentally broke up with me about eight hours ago, was fantastic during chemo. I think that because he could see that I was unwell he was able to offer me that support I needed. Funnily enough I only broke down a handful of times (emotionally) and he in all honestly at those times was useless. We would end up arguing and I would become more upset. I tried many times explaining that this isn’t me, that I was sorry for exploding about the smallest thing, to please cut me a little slack. Did I push him too hard? Did I expect too much from him? Am I always going to be this person who even I don’t really like?

Someone explained to my sister after an argument we’d had, that the best way to explain what I was going through was like the come down a person who takes drugs experiences, and with the chemo drugs that went into my body and the effect that they had on me both physically and mentally I was experiencing a come down that can last from 12 to 18 months. From that I figure that I have between 6 to 12 months of mental anguish left.

Between that, being scared of the cancer returning and losing the person who I love I think that maybe I would be better off crawling into a really deep hole until that time is up. I just feel lost, sad, depressed and so unsure of myself and I just wanted to know if I was alone or if anyone else had/has similar issues……”

Fortunately, Marnie went on to find help which included counselling at the Leukaemia Foundation and now looks back on her journey with ‘new’ eyes.

“Reflecting on my experience has in a strange way made me thankful for having had cancer. I mean no disrespect to anyone who is going through, has been through or has lost anyone to cancer, and I am also incredibly thankful to the universe for deciding that it is not yet my time to go,” Marnie said.

“My time with cancer has allowed me to re-evaluate many aspects of my life. No one really knows how long they will be alive for so I no longer waste any of my valuable, precious time worrying about things that are out of my control and I refuse to allow myself to become stressed. When I start to feel the anxiety of stress creeping in I simply take a step back from the situation.”

“Telling my story with full honesty was so important to me. Maybe it will give some support and validation to someone who resonates with me, and maybe it will be an insight for the family and friends of cancer patients whose loved one may not be coping as well as it appears.”

“Dealing with the aftermath of cancer allowed me to really see myself for who I was, what my true values were and what I wanted for the rest of my life. From the experience I ended up dealing with so much more than just the cancer. For this I am thankful as I do believe that I am now a better, happier and more fulfilled person.”

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