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.
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.
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.