Southsider Voice correspondent
When his wife, Brenda, was diagnosed nine years ago with breast cancer, Joe Choklett dropped as many obligations and responsibilities as possible.
And then he made Brenda his first priority.
Brenda Chocklett’s maternal great grandmother died of breast cancer. One aunt and one sister are survivors. Faithfully, she scheduled annual mammograms.
But there’s really not an easy way to cope when the test results reveal that diagnosis.
“I was really scared at first,” Joe said of the doctor’s news. “But we just tried to stay positive. And I was there. For anything Brenda needed, I was there.”
Preparing their children, Skylar and Taylor, young teenagers at the time, was also a hurtful task.
“The whole family was involved,” Joe said. “It wasn’t just my wife. I kept things positive and moving forward with the kids. I said things like, ‘What do we want to do when this is all done and Mom is better?’”
Because they had spent time around their aunt while she went through treatment, “They kind of understood what I was getting ready to face,” Brenda said.
When chemotherapy treatments caused Brenda’s hair to fall out in handfuls, Joe and Taylor shaved her head.
“It worked out fine,” she said. “We all hugged and cried and laughed.”
After the chemotherapy treatments, Brenda opted for bilateral mastectomy.
“I just told the boobs goodbye,” she said. “All I could think about at the time was the family history.”
But she also thought about her older sister, who chose not to get reconstruction after undergoing bilateral mastectomy.
“I watched my sister cry a lot because there was nothing there on her chest anymore,” Brenda said. “So I decided to get reconstruction. I was 41 years old at the time.”
Nine years after the surgery, the implants are still a problem.
“Now that I have been through it, I am not an advocate for reconstruction,” Brenda said. “My quality of life has changed so much.”
Diving into a swimming pool or enjoying a big splash down a water slide, bowling and sleeping on her stomach are just a few activities she no longer can do because of jarring the implants, which causes even more discomfort.
After breast cancer his wife cries a lot more easily, her husband said.
“Also, she used to be a real go-getter. But she has slowed down a lot. Things hurt her body. She gets tired more.”
At least a couple of times during treatment, Brenda admits that she wasn’t quite sure that she could get through it all. Looking at her husband and children gave her the boost she needed to get through another chemotherapy treatment or another day of difficulty dealing with pain management.
Joe didn’t always understand Brenda’s emotions. He didn’t always have something to say that would fix it all for her, either.
But he quickly discovered that words are rarely required.
“I made sure I was there for her. Holding her, paying attention to her, comforting her,” he said. “We said those vows, you know. For better or worse.”
“We did it,” Brenda added with a laugh. “We got through it. I am happy and grateful and thankful that I’m still here.”