Todd Chrisley still tears up when he talks about wife Julie’s brave triumph over breast cancer.
“The Lord spared my wife,” the flamboyant real estate tycoon and reality star told me Thursday over breakfast at a trendy West Hollywood eatery.
Julie Chrisley, his bride of 18 years and co-star on USA network’s CHRISLEY KNOW BEST, was diagnosed in March 2012, around the same time Todd was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy — and just months before his father lost his battle with liver cancer.
The couple kept Julie’s illness a secret from their five children until the day she underwent a double mastectomy at Johns Hopkins Cancer Center.
“[The whole family] flew in that morning and when she woke up they were standing there,” Todd remembers.
“When they arrived, I sat them down there in the hospital and said, ‘This is what we are dealing with and hopefully it is okay. Your mom may lose her hair or whatever, but whatever it is, we are going to get through it.’
“Grayson (8) was too young to really understand. But Chase (18) and Savannah (16) and Lindsie (24) and Kyle (22), they understood the severity of it.”
The Chrisley family — which rose to reality TV fame in March 2014 — waited nervously for more than 17 hours before Julie’s doctor emerged from the operating room.
“I have always been the type of person that no matter what it is, I will take a deep breath and figure it out,” Todd says.
“That is the only time in my life, when he came out from her surgery and was walking towards me, I could not physically get up out of the seat to greet him. I tried to put my hands on the arms of the chair to lift myself up and I could not get up. I just knew in my heart, ‘This is going to be bad.’ And I started crying.”
Today Julie is 100 percent cancer free.
“So we don’t have anything other than blessings,” Todd says. “We are just blessed to be here.”
Here’s more or what the couple told me about their public and private struggles — and the upcoming season of CHRISLEY KNOWS BEST.
Todd, did Julie’s cancer scare make you understand how much you love and appreciate her?
TC: No. I already knew that. When you get married, it is truly for better of for worse. Did I sign up to go through breast cancer? No. But neither did she. The hardest thing was that you start thinking as a woman… she was very vain about things like “Am I going to have a scar?” And luckily she was able to have a procedure where you don’t have a scar. But I told her, “At this point, after raiding five children, if you are not more to me than your breast, then I can tell you how to get rid of 170 pounds.” My love for Julie is unconditional. I married my best friend. That is why nothing that anybody can write or report about us is going to change who we are.
But a lot of things have been written about your family. Can you talk about some of the other ups and downs and how you bounced back from it all?
TC: I don’t know that we have had an incredible bounce back. I don’t think our lows have ever been as low as what you have read. We certainly had a setback with a land deal that I was involved in, a $50 million land deal. The other folks filed bankruptcy, which left me holding the bag. There was $400,000 spent on litigation fighting that. And when the others filed their bankruptcy, my attorneys said “You need to file for bankruptcy.”
JC: No one is exempt from the economy or from a business partner that embezzled millions and millions of dollars. Those things just go to show that we are still here. We are going to get through it. Those are the things that make us who we are.
TC: That all occurred in 2012. Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Which one of those situations is more severe? Certainly not the bankruptcy. It was whether Julie was going to be a survivor. So I didn’t focus on that. I focused on getting my wife where she needed to be. The attorneys handled all that. We went through the embezzlement to the bankruptcy to Julie being diagnosed with breast cancer to my dad being diagnosed with liver cancer on the day of our anniversary and two months later, her was gone. You can’t place the value on the dollar versus a human life. My dad is not here anymore. But the lord spared my wife.
What can we look forward to on the new season of CHRISLEY KNOWS BEST?
TC: Season two has a lot more of what season one had — just different problems. Chase is now 18. His new phrase is “I am a grown ass man.” You will see a lot of Chase trying to assert his independence. Savannah went on her first real quasi-first date. Grayson is now 8. He has another whole set of problems. He said he doesn’t know if he will do a third season unless he id gonna get tickets to the Lakers. Julie has gone back to work, so I am doing more to help her with the kids. So we have a lot of change in the second season.
CHRISLEY KNOWS BEST returns October 14 on USA.
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