May 12, 2013 at 11:08 AM ET
It’s been a tough few years for Marily Considine and her family. Her husband, John, a major in the U.S. Army, is 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan — his third deployment in their 12 years of marriage.
She and her sons, Johnily and Ryan, get to talk to him for just 15 minutes a day. “That 15 minutes I am on the phone with him is the only time I breathe during the day because I know he is ok. The other 23 hours and 45 minutes of a day, I am holding my breath because I am scared,” she told TODAY.
And, a few years back, Considine received a heartbreaking diagnosis: stage three advanced breast cancer.
“I remember being more shocked than anything,” she said, crying at the thought. “I didn’t understand. I just didn’t understand. I had never broken a bone in my life — how did this happen?”
At the forefront of her mind were her sons, of course. Who would care for them with their father halfway around the world?
But the tight-knit community of other military moms in her Texas town soon pitched in. Her colleagues at the pre-school where she teaches would come over and clean the house; friends brought meals.
“It was really hard to feel sorry for yourself when you have so many people that love you,” Considine said.
By January 2012, after eight rounds of chemo, 33 rounds of radiation and a bilateral mastectomy, she was cancer free.
Today Considine is the new face of Susan G. Komen’s Central Texas Branch, an opportunity for which she's truly grateful. “If I can be that face for people to know, ‘OK, she has gotten through this, life after cancer can be good, you just have to get through it,’ I think that that is great,” she says. “I am no stronger, I am no better than anyone else.”
She still teaches pre-school and continues to give back to the community that supported her through her tough times: Last summer, she helped build a house for a wounded warrior and she’s part of USO's United Through Reading's military program that helps kids of deployed parents.
Considine's story is a good reminder that for all the military servicemen and women we hear about in the news, there are families back home behind them.
“I think the biggest challenge in military life is the unknown,” she says. “We never know where we are going to live, we never know if we are going to have a husband or not that year.
“We can’t make plans, we can’t schedule a vacation a year in advanced because one, we don’t know where we will live, and we don’t know if he will be here or not be here. So I think the biggest is just the unknown, you have to be very flexible and ready to change a lot.”
It’s no secret Considine could use a break — so for this Mother’s Day, TODAY flew down to her family's Texas home and surprised her with a backyard makeover.
The family’s backyard was badly damaged in a fire nearly five years ago, and since then she's been dreaming of adding a patio and fire pit where friends can gather.
Their new patio, designed by Heart of Texas Landscape, will include all that and more—like a serene water feature where the family can relax. Check out the big reveal above.
Considine was shocked when she saw the results on a live video from the TODAY plaza Sunday, and cried in surprise when she saw her friends and family gathered in her spruced-up yard. She already has big plans for the new grill.
"We're going to have a barbecue when we get home," Considine said. "Everyone's invited."
"You know that's five million people," said TODAY's Lester Holt.
"Absolutely," Considine said. "Everyone can come."
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