Tyler and Stephanie Arnet's world was turned upside down when they learned she has eye cancer, so the doting husband set out to life her spirits

By Char Adams
February 22, 2018 03:31 PM

Stephanie and Tyler Arnet’s world was turned upside down in November when they learned that Stephanie has ocular cancer. The parents of three moved from Washington, D.C., to Washington state for Stephanie’s treatment, and have spent several months hoping for a miracle.

“It’s stressful. It’s life-changing,” Tyler tells PEOPLE. “[Stephanie] was really depressed. She said, ‘What if something happens and I don’t make it and my kids are alone without their mother?’ ”

As the months passed, the family settled into their Vancouver home and prepared for Stephanie’s first two surgeries, on Feb. 5 and 10. And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, Tyler teamed up with Jill Steenson of Lillian Lane Photography to present his wife with an extra special gift: “dudeoir” photos.

Credit: Lillian Lane Photography

“I was in my underwear smiling for a camera. I was trying not to laugh,” Tyler tells PEOPLE of the shoot. “The whole thing was funny, but my whole thought process was, if I could try to be serious … the funnier it would turn out. The photographer and her boyfriend who was there helping just kept telling me I was a majestic beast and I was sexy and I was killing it.”

Photos from the shoot showed Tyler in his underwear posing in a kitchen, on a bed and in a bathtub. In some shots, he wore an apron and in another he was shown striking a sultry pose as he held at plate of cookies.

He presented the photos to his wife just before her Feb. 10 surgery, and says her reaction made the goofy shoot worth it. “As soon as she saw it and her face lit up the way it did, it was just an instant success,” he says.

Credit: Lillian Lane Photography
Credit: Lillian Lane Photography

“She was completely surprised,” Tyler adds. “She couldn’t stop smiling. She couldn’t stop laughing. The only thing stopping her smile from getting any bigger were the ears on her face. It was a job well done.”

Stephanie echoed Tyler’s statements, telling PEOPLE that she was initially “speechless.”

“With each photo, I laughed a bit more, and I talked about them to the nurses and how amazing of a gift it was,” she says, adding that she was soon put under anesthesia for her surgery. “When I woke up, the first thing one of the nurses said to me was, ‘We saw the photos!’ And all of the laughter I had before my surgery, quickly returned.”

Credit: Lillian Lane Photography
Credit: Lillian Lane Photography

Stephanie shared the photos on Facebook, and the post has since amassed nearly 70,000 shares. And Tyler says the photos have provided the joy his wife needed during her health struggle.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” Tyler says, acknowledging that the shoot was an effort to “lift her spirits.” “This could’ve been the thing that gave her that boost of motivation to kick cancer’s ass.”

Now that the media storm has died down, Tyler says things are back to normal and the family is just focused on Stephanie’s treatment. He says they haven’t told their children, aged 7, 5, and 2, of Stephanie’s condition, they only know that “mommy has a boo-boo.”

Tyler (left) and Stephanie Arnet
| Credit: Tyler Arnet

As for the mom of three, Stephanie says she’ll always cherish the “dudeoir” photos.

“They still mean the world to me. To have a husband, who [couldn’t] care less what anyone thinks of him, to go into a zone most would find extremely uncomfortable, just to make me smile, is the best feeling,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s self-less. It’s one thing to hear someone say, ‘I love you so much, I’d do anything for you,’ but to be shown just how far someone is willing to go, is just breathtaking.”