This Couple Might Be Dead If They Hadn't Married One Another

Brian and Jeanne Gari are sure that if they hadn't met, they wouldn't be alive.

ByABC News
February 13, 2015, 2:22 PM

— -- If Brian and Jeanne Gari hadn't gotten married, they said they'd probably be dead now.

They pushed each other to go to the doctor, catching breast cancer and four blocked arteries. Now that their hospital stays are behind them, Brian, a Broadway lyricist and composer, wrote a song about the experience, and put the music to photos of their journey.

"Sitting there at one point, we both just started crying," Brian, 62, told ABC News of looking through photos of their recoveries. "I saw that picture of her in bed with the cat. It just rips me apart when I see that. There's a picture of me. ... I look like I'm dead. My eyes are closed. I'd just come out of surgery."

It started in 2012, just six months after their wedding, when Brian started to notice that his breathing wasn't quite right as he walked down the street. He figured he had nothing to worry about because his latest electrocardiogram had been fine and he wasn't a smoker or heavy drinker.

PHOTO: Brian and Jeanne Gari
Brian and Jeanne Gari

But one day, he really couldn't catch his breath on his way up the stairs from the subway, and Jeanne, 57, a pediatric nurse and his new wife of 6 months, insisted that he see a cardiologist.

When Brian went in for a stress test, he failed it and was rushed to the Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital for an electrocardiogram. Jeanne, starving for news, had to stay in the waiting room.

"Two surgeons came walking in right toward me with these weird smiles on their faces," she said. "I said, 'It's not good news, is it?' They said, 'no.'"

He needed quadruple bypass surgery the next day. The recovery was rough, but it saved his life, he said.

"Had I not gone for this stress test and angiogram, I was in for a massive heart attack," he said.

A year and a half later, in December 2013, Jeanne was contemplating putting her mammogram off for the second year in a row, when Brian became angry with her.

So she went. What did she have to lose?

They discovered a mass, and shortly thereafter, Jeanne was diagnosed with stage one triple negative breast cancer, which meant she would need chemotherapy because the cancer wouldn't respond to hormone therapies. The day before Valentine's Day last year, Jeanne underwent a double mastectomy.

"She was very lucky that her husband had her come in to see me," said Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum-Smith, a breast surgeon at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital. "She would have put it off even another year, another couple of years. Could have been different but impossible to predict how long it would take to grow."

Jeanne lost her hair, her eyebrows and her breasts, but she survived. She's since had reconstructive surgery and is looking forward to a normal Valentine's Day with her husband at their favorite sushi spot this year.