When You’re Facing a Life Alone With Chronic Illness


I never truly allowed myself to believe I’d marry. I didn’t think I’d find someone who would and could love me as much as I needed with my chronic health issues. I would require caregiving on a frequent basis, and at some point I’ll likely require it on a much more regular basis. That is a lot to request from another person, especially from the very beginning of a relationship and a marriage. Could I find someone who would be willing to take on this responsibility from the get-go? I did and my life was complete… or so I thought.

From a set of unfortunate circumstances and events, I lost my trust, and the life I knew had changed and I couldn’t change it back. My complete life was being torn apart, and divorce was on the horizon. I have a new life to fulfill on my own now.

Facing a life alone with chronic illness and the possibility for another cancer diagnosis in my future was a terrifying choice, but it was a choice I had to make. I felt completely alone in the world. Questions raced through my mind, filling my heart with fear and anxiety.

What would I do if my health worsens? What would I do if I developed cancer again? What would I do if I couldn’t work anymore and support myself? What would I do? What would happen to all my dreams? Can I do it all alone?

Making that choice was the hardest part.

Once I made the choice, as difficult as it was, a relief began to set over me — a relief that would grow the more I shared my concerns with my friends and family. A concern that was fettered away by more and more people. My primary support system offered reassurance and oaths never to leave me alone in this world. I would be taken care of when the time came. In addition, I will be purchasing long-term care insurance to ensure the financial burden of caregiving is provided for without a need for help from others. I’m doing everything I can to ensure my own well-being is cared for — by myself or by caregivers.

I’m learning more than I ever expected during this process. It never ceases to amaze me how much we can never truly prepare ourselves for all that we will encounter in life, though we try.

I’m learning to value and fiercely protect my independence. To stand on my own two feet and create the life I want for myself is the greatest accomplishment I’ll achieve, and I am excited to create a masterpiece. To lose my independence is now my greatest fear. I will fight tooth and nail to maintain and support myself and will gladly do so. My eyes have been opened to the joy that is self-sufficiency and the fulfillment that accompanies it. I’m finding that independence is much more than financial independence — it is the emotional and mental survival in the face of destructive forces.

I’m learning to cherish my support system more than ever. I’m gradually becoming accustomed to turning to the people in my support system when I need a shoulder to lean on. I’m discovering that independence isn’t not leaning on anyone ever, but discerning between periods when I can handle an emotionally tough time on my own and an overwhelming period when I need my support system’s aid. I’m letting my people be there for me and am gratefully returning the favor.

No matter what is yet to come, I’m looking forward to tackling each issue with a new set of skills that I continue to hone. And I’ve realized we’re not alone after all — not as long as we let others in.

woman raising arms facing away
Jenny standing outside with her arms raised, facing away from the camera

Follow this journey on Life’s a Polyp.

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