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"That Small Lingering Cough Could Kill You" Warns Seattle Reality TV Producer

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Kelly E.
Kelly E.

Maren Higbee, award-winning reality television producer and writer, shared with us what it's like learning your husband's cough is actually cancer.
Seattle TV producer and writer Maren HigbeeScreenshot from "Confessions of a Caregiver" by Maren Higbee

When Maren Higbee's husband had a lingering cough for a few weeks, she pushed for him to go to the doctor.

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"He assured me every time. 'I'm fine, it's just a lingering cough,'" she told NewsBreak. "I'd let it go for a few days. Then another coughing bout would happen, and I'd push again. What we didn't know was this was a nearly deadly cough."

It wasn't until the cough was accompanied by trouble breathing that he finally agreed to go see his general doctor in Seattle. That appointment was a week out. His cough and his breathing got worse. In the doctor's office, they took one look at his X-ray and sent him to the emergency room.

It was in that dank little room a few hours later, Maren learned her husband had cancer.

"With those words, that were so hard to absorb, Brandon was brought up to the Oncology floor. No one tells you the diagnosis process takes over a week. All we knew was it was cancer. Not what kind of cancer. Not a prognosis. Just Cancer," Maren told us.

The uncertainty was lifted when they learned he had inoperable Large B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Treatment for this kind of cancer was five days in patient 24 hour a day chemotherapy, followed by 14 days home then another round. They had to do this six times. To save his life, the treatment needed to start immediately. He was in a dire situation.

That first round of chemo was rough.

Maren is an award-winning Reality TV producer with career highlights including The Deadliest Catch, Oprah's Big Give, and Jockeys. But nothing prepared her for the reality of life post-cancer diagnosis.

"Brandon slept a lot, and I just watched him lay in the hospital bed. Many nights I cried, fearful of what I would do if I lost him. I later learned that when I wasn't there, he was asking his friends to take care of me if he died," says Maren.

Each week Brandon got skinnier and lost more hair. By treatment six there were a few eyelashes and a stray chest hair here or there. "He looked like a different person."

Maren and her husband in the Seattle home.

The sixth and final treatment ended with a ring of the bell and hugs from nurses that now felt like family. Maren thought to herself, "this is where the pain ends, right?" Wrong.

Chemotherapy is only step one. Now the couple had to wait a month to find out if the treatment had worked.

"We had to enter a new phase of our life that was clearly nothing like the life we had left behind that day we went to the Emergency room," she says.

The next six months were filled with Physical therapy, counselling for both of them, doctors visits and disagreements. They worked hard to find stability in this new life.

The day he received all clear, there was a sigh of relief. Today he is recovered, but they never know if cancer will come back. The moral? Maren warns, "If you discover a lingering cough, get it checked out. It could be a sign of a lot bigger problem."

Maren Higbee is currently running for “Woman of the Year” at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She has made a humorous series called Confessions of a Caregiver that covers her struggles through her husband's chemotherapy.

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