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Confronting Cancer as a Team

By BCRF | February 20, 2020

When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Peter Wise put his fears aside and made it his mission to be there for her every step of the way.

When Peter Wise and his wife, Ouidad, learned that she had breast cancer in 2004, the couple was devastated. Life had been good to them: They had nurtured a strong 20-year marriage, raised a son and daughter, and, as business partners, successfully launched a chain of internationally renowned salons and a line of hair care products for people with curly hair. It was Ouidad’s dream.

“I admit that some of my first thoughts were a little selfish,” Peter said. “‘What about the kids? What about me?’ I was scared. But I knew that Ouidad and I would tackle this together because we always do. And when we dive into something, we’re in it all the way.”

Ouidad’s diagnosis wasn’t the first time that breast cancer affected their lives. Her mother had died of metastatic breast cancer at 46 years old—the same age Ouidad was diagnosed. Sadly, Ouidad’s mother passed just three months before the couple married in 1984.

With his wife facing the same disease 20 years later, Peter threw himself into learning everything he could about it. The couple sought out several opinions for treatment, and Peter attended every appointment with Ouidad so they could discuss and decide on the path forward together.

After weighing treatment options, Ouidad opted to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction and take tamoxifen, a hormonal therapy. The doctor they chose said it was the best course of treatment given Ouidad’s family history of breast cancer, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“Ouidad is such a beautiful woman, and the idea of losing her breasts was hard for her,” Peter said. “But breasts aren’t what make her a woman.”

In addition to providing emotional support, Peter wanted to be hands-on when it came to his wife’s recovery. He met with the doctors and nurses to learn how to provide post-operative care, such as changing her bandages and drainage bags and filling her implants with saline.

“Honestly, it was reassuring for me to be there to help with her care,” he said. “And our family and friends really rallied around us. It a sweet time in our lives in that way. Everyone got closer.”

Thankfully, Ouidad has been in remission since her surgery. But breast cancer still plays a major role in the couple’s lives—this time as a cause. Shortly after Ouidad’s recovery, she and Peter founded Curls for a Cure to support BCRF. To date, they’ve raised more than $577,000 for breast cancer research—and counting.

“Obviously this disease hits very close to home for us,” Peter said. “We wanted to fund research to make sure that our daughter—or anyone—wouldn’t experience what Ouidad and her mother went through.”

He also has words of advice for those whose spouse has been diagnosed with breast cancer: “Embrace it. Embrace the fact that this is a project you need to confront and tackle as a team. Together you can do it. As horrible as the disease is, it made Ouidad and I even closer.”