Husband of breast cancer survivor: ‘The fight is worth it’
Seeing all the color leave my wife’s face when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2011 is a hard memory to think about. Aly was only 24 at the time. I was 27. And we had just decided to start trying to have children. We had no clue what to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis, but our minds automatically leapt to the worst-case scenario.
Once we learned what Aly actually had (stage II invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast) and how her doctors at MD Anderson wanted to treat it, it didn’t really leave us a whole lot of time to think. But we got educated very fast. And one of the things we learned is that the fight is worth it. Even if you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, you have to believe it’s going to be good.
My first priority: loving my wife
As a man, two of the first things I think about in any family health crisis are money and time. So when Aly was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew that life as I knew it needed to stop. My primary job would be to love Aly and let her know that she was my No. 1 priority.
One of the ways I did that was by leaning heavily on my support system, which included Aly’s doctors. The fact that they all made themselves so accessible to me helped a lot. They would answer any question I had — and I asked a lot of questions. Sometimes, while Aly was receiving treatment at the hospital, she’d think I’d gone to the cafeteria or the bathroom, but really, I’d snuck up to the fifth floor to ask a doctor something else.
From zero to three kids in 18 months
Because we’d been told Aly would probably never conceive naturally, my wife and I jumped on the adoption train pretty quickly after she finished treatment. We were both in the delivery room when our first daughter, Genevieve, was born.
So it was quite a surprise when Aly sat me down nine months later and presented me with a Bible verse. The quote was Psalm 128:3, which read, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”
I could hardly believe what she was telling me, but Aly was pregnant. We were overjoyed. Just one month later, Genevieve’s birth mother called to say she was pregnant again, too, and asked if we’d consider another adoption. We said we would, and Lydia was born 11 days after Vera. Suddenly, we’d gone from a couple with no children to a couple with three — all under the age of 2. We couldn’t have been happier.
Our second daughter’s birth: a ‘full circle moment’
A cancer diagnosis changes you so profoundly that I’m not sure you ever really “get over it.” But Vera’s birth was really a “full circle” moment for me. Just knowing Aly was still alive to be my wife, seeing her give birth to our second daughter, and getting to be her husband as she fought for her life left me feeling profoundly grateful.
And seeing my wife healed and whole now — both as a mom and as my wife— gives me a dose of perspective every day. Because being with her and our girls today is enough. Tomorrow will bring a plan to deal with the rest.