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Twelve Months to Heal a Marriage

A battle with cancer helped her to realize just how deeply she loved her husband.

By Amy Hauser, The Woodlands, Texas

As appeared in

Would I have been better off if I’d just stuck it out in Chicago? a little voice in my head sometimes asked. If I hadn’t quit on my dreams? I often fantasized about that other Amy—big-city Amy, who worked in a high-rise and went to the theater with her nightlife-loving husband.

Maybe Tom would have been happier with someone else too. Someone who appreciated him for what he was, a steady, faithful provider. Would waiting a year help me fall in love all over again with that man? I doubted it.

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Tom must have doubted it too. We had lots of decisions to make here in our new house—decorating choices, where to send the kids to school, managing money. We were on very different pages; sometimes, it seemed, in different books. And a year was a very long time.

Then, one morning in the shower, I felt a strange lump under my arm. Probably nothing. I got it checked out just to be safe.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Hauser,” said the doctor. “It’s breast cancer. Stage Two B invasive ductal carcinoma, triple negative. That’s a lot of jargon, but basically it means you have a very difficult form of cancer to treat. We need to start chemotherapy right away. And we need to talk about surgery.”

I drove home in shock. In utter disbelief. Cancer? Along with everything else? I called Tom at work. Of course he didn’t freak out. Tom never freaked out.

“I’ll be right home,” he said. He paused. “Don’t be afraid, Amy. We will beat this. You’re strong.”

I wondered. All I could think of as I waited for him to come home was that if the cancer didn’t kill me, it would certainly finish off our marriage. How could we possibly handle this stress if we couldn’t even agree on the little stuff?

This wasn’t about the balance in the checking account or what color to paint the living room. This was cancer.

But when Tom came home he didn’t look crushed by stress. I could tell he was worried about me. There was something else there too, though, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. Or had I just failed to notice it?

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It was as if Tom knew me so well he knew exactly what strength I had to fight cancer—and what he’d lose if I lost the fight.

He got businesslike talking about treatment options. For once I was glad he wasn’t as emotional as me. I could rest in his competence, knowing he wouldn’t falter.

We quickly agreed: start chemo immediately, with a double mastectomy after treatments concluded. Not an easy choice. “We’ll take the fight to the cancer,” Tom said. I loved his resoluteness.

And I needed that resoluteness when chemo started. Following the first treatment I was flat on my back.

“I don’t want you to worry about a thing except recovering,” Tom told me after he’d made up our bed with extra pillows. He caressed my forehead and squeezed my hand before heading to the kitchen to make dinner for the kids.

Already he’d figured out their schedules and made arrangements at work so he could get them to and from school and practices. So organized. So Tom.

We didn’t know many people at our new church in Houston, but word about my illness quickly spread. Of course Tom was on top of it and coordinated meal deliveries and offers of help. He seemed to be everywhere at once.

How did he know when I was thirsty or ready to try keeping down some food? There he was at the bedroom door the moment I needed him. He knew when I needed a back rub, prayers, an encouraging word or just a kiss on the forehead.