Chuck Jarrett’s wife, Shae, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2010. A few months later a friend and breast cancer survivor told the Jarretts about Beyond Boobs! and suggested they get involved. Chuck and Shae thought joining the group sounded like a good idea. As a Boober! Shae participated in support groups and went on fun outings. She was selected as one of the calendar models for A Calendar to Live By 2012 and attended the Pink Carpet Gala on her husband’s arm when the calendar was unveiled in September of 2011.
“Beyond Boobs! was a great group for Shae to be a part of,” Chuck said. “Everyone around her – her parents, her sister, me – we were all telling her that everything was going to be OK, but she was hearing that through a prism of people who were not going through what she was going through. Being with Boobers! and hearing from women who had been there and lived through it was very important.”
Shae was diagnosed with breast cancer again in 2012.
“We thought after the first time that she would be cancer-free and healthy to enjoy the rest of her life,” Chuck said. “We had hoped she would live for many years and we would be able to manage her condition. When she was re-diagnosed we realized it would be something that would take her life.”
Shae, Chuck’s beautiful bride of almost seven years and mother of their young daughter, Payton, passed away on January 4, 2014. She was thirty-three years old.
After Shae’s death Chuck was a 37-year-old widower and single father.
“I grieved for Shae multiple times,” Chuck said. “I grieved when she was diagnosed the first time, and I grieved when she was diagnosed again and we knew it was only a matter of time. Then she passed, and I have been grieving for 18 months.”
Chuck admits that he grappled with his grief on his own when Shae was ill. “I didn’t want to burden her with my grief,” he explained. “That was something I felt I had to bear by myself.”
After Shae’s death Chuck went to counseling sessions at his church to come to terms with his loss and his emotions. He also turned to family and friends for support. “I have great people in my life who provide great support,” Chuck said.
“Shae was beautiful inside and out,” he continued. “She really cared for other people. It was a gift that we had that time together. Many people go quickly, but I was able to be with Shae and tell her how much I loved her. My life is better because she was in it. I was grateful for that opportunity, but I am sad it couldn’t have been longer.”
In addition to a strong network of family and friends, Chuck also received a lot of support from Beyond Boobs!
“I received a lot of phone calls after my wife passed, with Boobers! checking on Payton and I,” he said. “The group provided a lot of physical and emotional support for us.”
One Boober! volunteered to watch Payton while Chuck was at work during the summer. When she was no longer able to baby-sit, Beyond Boobs! Cofounder and Executive Director, Mary Beth Gibson, referred Chuck to a nanny agency that he has worked with ever since.
“Getting connected with that agency was a significant help for us,” Chuck said. “When they found out our story they searched for someone who would be a perfect fit.”
Hiring a nanny to look after his daughter while he is at work has not been easy for Chuck. “I took baby steps,” he said. “At first we started with an hour or two a day. My comfort level rose as time passed and the nanny we worked with came to understand the way I run my household. This arrangement has worked out well for us.”
As the newly single dad of a little girl, Chuck knew he had a steep learning curve ahead of him. Prior to her death, Shae had instructed Chuck on how to braid hair and other tasks a little girl might need help with.
“Shae was smart,” Chuck said. “She made me do a lot of things with Payton in case something happened. I continued to help out, but it was evident I needed to learn more.”
Payton is six years old and will be starting first grade in the fall. Chuck sees so much of Shae in Payton. “As she continues to grow into a beautiful young woman, there is no doubt she will resemble Shae,” Chuck said.
Although his wife has passed, Chuck remains actively involved with Beyond Boobs! He participates in the annual “Breast” Ball Golf Tournament and this year volunteered with Vicki Vawter, BB!’s marketing and events manager, to help plan the event. He attends the Pink Carpet Gala and the parades in Williamsburg, even going so far as to don a feathery pink boa to support the group.
“Beyond Boobs! will forever be a part of us,” Chuck said. “We will always support them and participate in their events and fundraisers. They won’t be able to help Shae anymore, but they will always remember her and keep her memory alive.”
Sometimes it is hard for Chuck to attend Beyond Boobs! events without Shae. “It will always be hard for me,” Chuck said. “But it is also a way to remember my wife.”
Chuck wants Payton to be involved with Beyond Boobs! and to benefit from all the group has to offer.
“My daughter will benefit from her involvement with Beyond Boobs! because, no matter how old she gets, as long as she is connected they can pass on stories about Shae to her. Since her mom had breast cancer, that means there is a higher risk for Payton to develop the disease, too. So long as she is surrounded by Boobers!, she will learn about this horrible disease and how to help others, so that maybe in her lifetime she will see a cure for it!”
Chuck displays photos of Shae all over the Jarrett home in Williamsburg. He encourages Payton to talk with her mom whenever she wants. “I tell her that her mommy is always here with her,” Chuck said. “Payton goes up to her pictures and I tell her that she can talk to her mom because her mom can always hear her.”
Right now Payton doesn’t understand everything that her parents went through. “She understands that her mom was sick and that she didn’t feel well,” Chuck said. “Payton knows her mom is looking down on her from heaven.”
Chuck is grateful for the friendship that Beyond Boobs! provided to Shae during her time as a Boober!, and he is thankful for the love and support the group has shown him and his daughter as he adapts to life after his wife’s death.
“Beyond Boobs! is truly following their mission of supporting young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their families,” he said. “With their help, I will be able to keep Shae a part of my daughter’s life and not just a memory.”
If you would like to learn more about Chuck and Shae’s experiences, please click here to read the touching letters they wrote to express their love to each other.