“There was one period of a few days that I thought I only had a couple weeks left of life,” Carter, 91, recalled Wednesday, sitting beside his wife, Rosalynn, on a couch at the Carter Center. Come July 7, they’ll have spent 70 years as husband and wife. But back when doctors discovered cancer in his liver and his brain late last summer, he explained, “We thought life was over for me. I think that having been together for 69 years obviously made it easier for us to weather that storm of emotions.”
Easier, maybe. But not easy, as Rosalynn Carter, 88, made clear.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she said quietly. “That was … earthshaking.”
Fortunately, things took a more propitious turn in the weeks and months that followed. A combination of radiation and immunotherapy drugs had proven so effective that his doctors were stopping treatment, Carter said in March (although they continue to monitor him for signs of cancer). And in two weeks, the former first couple from little Plains in southwest Georgia will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
Of everything they’ve accomplished together and apart — the White House, a Nobel Peace Prize for him, her groundbreaking work in mental health advocacy — they know it’s the marriage milestone that really stops people in their tracks.
“It always gets applause when I mention it publicly,” the former president chuckled. “That’s the surest applause that we get.”