Battling Breast Cancer While Pregnant Made My Marriage Stronger

Eight years ago, I found out a lot about my husband, Grant. We’d been married for nearly nine years and while I felt our relationship was solid, little did I know it was soon to be put to the test. I was about to transition from worrying about what I would wear to my upcoming high school reunion to fighting for my life and the lives of two daughters I had only dreamed about.

At the time, we had a 6-year old biological son and were two years into the process of an international adoption. Grant and I were under the impression that the chances of having a second biological child were slim to none because we had tried for five years to get pregnant and, for reasons unknown, it hadn’t worked. I took tremendous comfort, however, in the sense that the revised family portrait I’d painted in my mind was soon to become a beautiful reality.

Then, out of nowhere, a small, hard chickpea-size lump in my left breast brought that contentment to an abrupt end. Yes, it was the ‘Big C’, and an aggressive ‘C’ at that. To complicate matters, a few days after hearing “You have cancer” I uttered three more unfathomable words to Grant: “I am pregnant.”

Needless to say, our lives were turned upside down in a short amount of time. The year that followed was full of stress, fear, and gut-wrenching decisions. Although I was the one taking the punches (surgery, chemo while pregnant, giving birth, more chemo, etc.), Grant’s role was pivotal to my story being one of triumph rather than defeat. Here’s how:

1. He told me what I needed to hear…repeatedly.
From the moment of my diagnosis, Grant told me I was the strongest woman he knew. I disagreed with this assessment. I felt more like a helpless blob — a helpless, soggy blob to be exact, thanks to my daily tearful meltdowns. The more he insisted on my strength, however, the more those words sunk in, until I eventually began to believe it! Plus, when I was as bald as Bruce Willis with a belly rivaling Jack Black’s, Grant told me I was beautiful. Now that’s love.

2. He took care of the extra bullsh*t.
Unfortunately, a health crisis doesn’t allow us simply to heal our damaged bodies. There’s the administrative part, too, which involves finding the right doctors, setting up appointments, and arguing with insurance to make sure procedures are covered. No patient needs that stress on top of her diagnosis. Grant handled the majority of this for me, which freed up time to focus on the main part of the battle – getting better. And I even had time for a little prenatal yoga, too!

3. He brought a notebook.
After learning I had cancer, my brain attempted to protect me by interpreting all doctors’ words spoken from then on as gibberish. Turns out, this isn’t entirely helpful. Grant came with me to ALL of my appointments, took copious notes, and asked questions, while I sat there, head cocked and squinting, using every ounce of concentration to pretend I was paying attention.

4. He didn’t cry (at least not in front of me).
Grant might have had emotional moments in private, but he never let me know about them. I was thankful for this because I would have resented having to deal with his tears in addition to my own. I know that seems selfish, but that’s only because it is.

5. He made me laugh.
Several examples come to mind, but one in particular stands out. During our consultation with the breast surgeon, the doctor asked us if we’d like to watch the “Nipple Video.” Without missing a beat, Grant said, “Nipple Video? Of course I would. I usually have to pay extra for that!” What do you call a guy who cracks a joke in the middle of a discussion about the dismal future of my breasts? My hero.

6. He took us to Maui.
A few days following diagnosis and pregnancy discovery, I was busy wallowing on our bed, when Grant called from work and told me to pack a bag because we were leaving for Maui the following morning. Was this extravagant and impractical? Yes! And to this day I thank him for it. It was the perfect thing to do — escape for a few days, regroup, and gather strength for the road ahead — all while sipping piña coladas (virgin, sadly, but still delish) with my toes in the sand.

I’ll be forever grateful knowing that I’m married to someone who seriously stepped up when the going got tough. I can only hope that I will be as helpful to him as he was to me should the tables ever be turned. But now, at least, I can refer to this list for assistance.

So I guess that’s #7 – He inspired me to write a list for others to follow (I can follow it, too). Thanks, honey. I love you…unconditionally.

Photo: Getty