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...

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...

Explaining cancer to young children: one family’s approach

Seeking additional treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma presented a challenge for Emily Dumler in 2013. At the time, she and her husband, Scott, had three young children, and they all lived in Kansas City. But the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant she’d already received locally hadn’t worked, and the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial Emily wanted to try was only available at MD Anderson in Houston, about 650 miles away by air. “Our children were 4, 6 and 8,” explains Scott. “So we just tried to make sure their lives stayed as normal as possible.” ‘Different levels of being sick’ The Dumlers maintained that normalcy by juggling the many offers of help they received from friends and family members. But the couple also managed their children’s anxiety by offering frequent, age-appropriate explanations. “I told them there are different levels of being sick,” Emily recalls. “Sometimes, it just means I don’t feel that well. But it’s a continuum. So on other days, I’d say, ‘Look, I’m really sick right now, but I’m going to get better.’” ‘What does cancer look like?’ While Emily was receiving treatment, Scott soothed the children’s fears by answering questions daily, whether he was at home with them in Kansas or with his wife in Houston. “I spoke to the kids every night, and was like, ‘OK, what questions do you have today?’” Scott says. “They already knew two people who had died of cancer, so they had a lot of concerns. At one point, my 6-year-old asked me, ‘What does cancer look like?’ Which might seem pretty irrelevant to an adult. But it helped her understand...