Stories of Hope

Being There All the Way: Life as a Husband to a Breast Cancer Survivor

Being There All the Way: Life as a Husband to a Breast Cancer Survivor

Today we’re sharing the story of Tommy and his message of hope to others caring for loved ones facing breast cancer. Tommy is married to his wife, Ash, and a father to two little boys, Liam and Lennon. ­­­­

Life with my wife before breast cancer was carefree.

Ash found out she was pregnant in 2015, so after we had our first child, Liam, we followed our dreams and moved to Nashville. We loved going to concerts, working out, taking Liam to the pool, and cooking. Nothing we did would ever lead us to believe one of us would be diagnosed with cancer.

Three years into our relationship, Ash was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was in China for work and she got the call confirming she had breast cancer while driving to pick me up from the airport.

Honestly, I felt numb for the first month or so. Kind of in disbelief but at the same time very optimistic that everything would be okay. I felt the need to be Ash’s rock and not show her that this diagnosis phased me at all.

I remember feeling an overwhelming amount of anxiety and breaking down around two months after her diagnosis. I realized I couldn’t walk around with all of my emotions bottled up. It was okay to be vulnerable and share how I felt with Ash. It ended up bringing us closer. We knew we were in this together, and our only option was to stand side by side and fight with everything we had.

Ash getting her hair shaved by her son

As a caretaker, fighting for me meant going the extra mile so my wife didn’t feel obligated to do more than she needed to. Ash is a go-getter, like many wives and moms — she will work herself to exhaustion regardless of how she feels or what she has going on. So, my main role was to take charge and do the things I knew she had to have done, before she had the chance to do them. In the end, I just tried to be the person she needed me to be every day. 

Last month Ash got confirmation that her scan and bloodwork came back clear. October 25, 2020 will officially mark us three years cancer free. The joy of that moment has only been exceeded with the arrival of our second, perfectly healthy, baby boy, Lennon.

Ash, 3 years cancer-free, with husband and newborn boy

The longer Ash stays cancer free, the more the thought of recurrence continues to fade. But I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind from time to time. Tomorrow is never guaranteed—we have learned that lesson along the way and know that not everyone is as lucky as we have been throughout our journey.

Looking back, this is what I would tell other men caring for their wives or loved ones facing breast cancer:

Be the rock, but stay vulnerable. Express your emotions out loud. Hug each other and cry together. Be whoever they need you to be. And remind them of who they are, even with cancer.

My wife has always been a warrior—there is no quit in her. She was determined to complete a half marathon, while still actively in treatment. Running was a part of our life before cancer, and she vowed to stay the course. We completed the half marathon together, staying by each other’s side for the entire race and holding hands when we crossed the finish line. That is one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had with Ash.

There is no perfect answer, perfect husband, or perfect caregiver. Everyone expresses themselves in different ways, but I realized quickly that it was better to endure this terrible time by showing my partner how I felt day in and day out.

There were some good days, but the bad days consumed us during this time. Some days were physically taxing, and others were mentally taxing. Not knowing what will happen to your significant other when they are diagnosed with breast cancer is terrifying. It’s normal to feel scared to death every day while fighting this terrible disease. It’s okay to be scared, but being scared should never take your fight away. Take on the warrior mentality like Ash did. Do better in every aspect of your life. Make the changes you know you need to make. Being a caretaker isn’t easy, but it’s hugely important.

National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.

Publish Date: October 21, 2020


  1. Hi Annette,
    I am kind of going through what you did. I took a week off of my job because I had a bone spur on my heel. During that time, I scheduled a mammogram and got the call to come back for more films and biopsy. I got off the phone and told my husband I had cancer. Long story short, stage 2, 3 rumors & had dbl mastectomy 09/17. Started chemo & 1 test in and blacked out-broken leg/7places. 2 surgeries landed in nursing home for 1 month. My husband then decided to get away for few days due to stress. After getting back home walked finally on 2/14/18. He filed for divorce in June 2019 and was final 11/2019. Then I got text msg from girlfriend 1 then phone call from gf #2.
    and they told me about 3 & 4. My life seems over and still struggling. They were dating for approx 5 years.
    I want to commend the husbands that stand by and love their wives. I wish I could say the same. What a waste of 44 yrs of my life.

  2. I’m thankful of my wife for sending me this link . For the things he expressed was so liberating I’m in tears now while typing this comment,Because I was feeling like we were the only ones feeling this way. Once again thank you for the encouragement. Clennon

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, Annette. Your positive outlook amidst your trials is inspiring! Our team will be reaching out to share some resources that may be able to help you.

  4. Thank you for sharing I’ve been in remission for one year and my partner has been my number one supporter however no one like Jesus Christ who walked with me through darkness
    days!! Blessings to you and your family

  5. I was diagnosed with breast cancer December 28, 2007. A few months before my diagnosis, I went through an unwanted divorce. So, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was still reeling from the difficult feelings and chaos that accompany divorce. Without my husband, but with my wonderful family and friends, I went through all the necessary treatments including surgeries, chemo, radiation, and the full schedule of years of follow-up appointments.

    Fast forward ten years to July 2018 where I came out of remission. The cancer had spread to my bones and lungs. It is now in my liver and (strangely enough) also in my skin. I was a teacher but this past summer, I had to resign my position and go on long term disability. I find it discouraging that after spending most of my life working, my long term disability barely covers my bills including exorbitant COBRA payments and yearly out-of-pocket expenses. I know other people in similar situations where they feel like they’ve worked hard, but now are burdened with high medical bills. If you have any advice or recommendations on how to manage high medical expenses, I’d love to learn more, not only for myself, but for other friends who are experiencing similar difficulties.

    By the way, I love my doctors and medical staff. In many ways, they’ve become part of my extended family. Speaking of family, I’m thankful for my regular family and friends who have been a wonderful support. And, as always, God has been so kind during all of this, including during my recent three days plus fourteen more day hospital stay over Christmas. The staff said that my room won the award for being the most restful and best decorated room on the floor. And, you know what? When it rains, sometimes it pours! I’m doing my best to continue to dance in the rain. If you haven’t tried it, it’s fun! Go for it!!

    Anyway, I love reading stories like yours where you and your wife are journeying together and giving each other grace. Thanks for taking the time to write your blog and for your vulnerability too. Your story has encouraged me today.

  6. Thankful I can share these stories with my patients. Especially those with new diagnoses. Stories like this one, I hope, can keep my patients motivated through the treatment process and beyond! Its hard at times to see that their is life after cancer, especially when you are in the middle of it. Emotions are real and valid, and the vulnerability Tommy shared is inspirational for partners and care givers for any life altering diagnosis. Ashley and Tommy are a testament to the journey of cancer!

  7. After 9 years breast cancer has returned to my wife, JOANNE. Today (11/19/2020) she has her first visit with the same physician that performed the previous surgery. We will know more later this afternoon. We appreciate the provided information. We plan on doing everything in our power and of course God’s power to get through this latest diagnosis in a joint positive effort. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

  8. Ash is truly lucky to have such a caring hubby. It is not that easy for a partner to stand by during hard times.. It really gives mental strength to face any unexpected situation. God bless them with good and profound health.

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