By Sarah Garcia - February 12, 2021
Todd and Becky Beggs have been married for 27 years. For more than six of those, Becky has been battling the unthinkable: stage four metastatic breast cancer. But she hasn’t weathered the storm alone. “He’s been my constant, there for me through it all.”
Todd says it’s been a true test of their wedding vows.
“When you get married, you say for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” he said. “It’s one of those things that, until you experience something like this, you really don’t know what commitment means. I’ve learned what it means to honor those vows.”
Since it has metastasized to her lungs and liver, Becky’s cancer is inoperable. When they first got the diagnosis, they were given a grim outlook. “The doctor said we’re just going to focus on quality of life,” said Todd.
Then Becky transferred to Moffitt Cancer Center, where she met with Dr. Roohi Ismail-Khan. “She said, ‘The first thing I’m going to tell you is that this is not a death sentence. This is just a chronic illness that we are going to treat,’” said Becky.
“It was a breath of fresh air. It gave us hope and reassured us,” said Becky. “Dr. Ismail-Khan said, ‘We’re going to focus on quality of life, but we’re also going to focus on quantity. We’re going to get you the longest life you can possibly have with a stage four diagnosis.’”
“It made me feel more at ease,” said Todd emotionally. “That fear that, I might lose my wife in a year was gone.”
“After that, we thought we can do this,” said Becky.
Six and a half years later, the couple has learned how to navigate life with chronic cancer. Becky visits Moffitt every three weeks to receive a combination chemo and immunotherapy treatment called Enhertu®. Though they’ve had to overcome many difficulties, they always look for “the blessings,” and have discovered plenty of lessons along the way.
A Bond Strengthened
The couple says their relationship has definitely changed, and in some ways, for the better. A blessing in disguise, brought about by the worst circumstances. “Our bond has grown much stronger because we rely on each other so much now. Whatever I need, he is right there to do it,” said Becky.
Going through cancer is tough, she says, but so is being a caregiver. “They’re often the unsung hero. Everybody asks how I'm doing. Nobody asks Todd how he’s doing.”
As the caregiver, Todd says he’s leaned heavily on his wife, too. “I take care of her, but she doesn’t realize how much she takes care of me. I’d kind of sunk back into myself, but her outlook and how she handles this with such positivity, she’s really helped me get out of that and be more of who I used to be. It makes me fall in love with her even more.”
Live in the Present
The Beggs live life more fully now because their perspective has changed. They say they take it one day at a time and try to do more of the things they wanted to do, but just never did.
“You’re just going through the motions of daily life, and you think you’ve got all the time in the world,” said Becky.
Their advice? Live your life now. Don’t put off that trip, that thing you want to splurge on, that experience you’ll eventually get to sometime in the future. When something like this happens, Todd says, “You learn to look at what’s really important.”
The couple is taking more trips to the beach (Becky’s favorite place), booked their first cruise (fingers crossed, says Becky), and Todd surprised her with her dream car – a pale blue Volkswagen Beetle – “convertible,” she says with a wide smile.
Be the People You Always Were
When there’s a cancer diagnosis looming over you, it can be difficult to focus on anything else. “It can consume you,” said Becky. “It’s always at the forefront of your mind.” But she says it’s important to remember who you are, both as a couple and as individuals. “Do the things that you did before. Keep your friends. Still go out to eat, go on dates.”
“Treat your spouse like you always would,” said Todd. “Be like you’ve always been. They’re the same person you fell in love with – they just have an illness.”
And Becky says it’s important for the caregiver to have an outlet. “For Todd, that’s hunting. Being out in the woods with the guys, in his tree stand, enjoying nature.”
If there’s one lesson the Beggs can share from going through cancer as a couple, it’s always remembering to communicate. Regardless of whether you are the patient or the caregiver, don’t be afraid to express how you’re feeling, they emphasize.
“If you’re scared, frustrated, sad, depressed, talk about it,” said Todd. “It all goes back to communication.”