In December, when fans learned that The Little Couple’s Dr. Jennifer Arnold was battling a rare uterine cancer just as she and her husband Bill Klein brought their second adopted child, daughter Zoey, home from India, they wondered what would become of their favorite TV family — and their favorite TV show.
The answer: Not even two lively toddlers and an exhaustive cancer battle can keep the Klein-Arnold clan down. Realizing that they’d always intended to make a show that educated and entertained, Bill and Jen decided to chronicle this challenging chapter in all new episodes beginning Tuesday, March 4 at 10/9CT.
“There were good days when I felt like I could do normal things, and bad days where it was difficult to even type on my laptop due to the fatigue,” says Jen of weekly chemotherapy treatments that robbed her of her hair and her stamina. “I still don’t know how we got through it, but like any other obstacle we’ve faced before, you just do it! The support around us from friends and family cannot be underestimated. Even those who just ran by to bring us easy to prep dinners was a huge help.”
“Honestly, the adjustment was relatively easy,” says Bill of taking over as “Mr. Mom” so Jen could focus on getting well. “My love for my wife and kids motivates me to do anything for them. And being with Jen regardless of where it is — the hospital, the couch — and playing with the kids make every day better than the one before.”
Even as Zoey struggled to acclimate to her new home.
“She definitely had a more difficult and challenging transition than Will did,” says Jen. “She came from a very under-resourced environment and was a year younger, and at first, she seemed afraid of us and everything around her — not surprising as it was all new and nothing like anything she knew before. Now, though, she is happy and fun and loves to give us hugs and kisses. She is exploring and testing us like any healthy two-year-old would.”
As for big brother Will, the sunny, resilient tot has taken to his new role “much the same as he has tackled everything — with an amazing attitude, maturity beyond his years and a killer smile,” says his dad. “There have been moments where he uses his big-brother attributes to get his way, but, by and large, he is a big brother in all the good ways. He makes sure she is safe, that she eats well and that she gets to have fun. They play together, he hugs and kisses her when she needs one — and he lets her know if she’s doing something wrong too!”
“He is an amazing big brother and you will see that on the show,” Jen adds. “He was so excited to bring Zoey home, and he still always thinks about her. If he gets a cookie, he first points to Zoey to ensure she gets one too. Of course, there is the occasional melt down over a toy, but if that didn’t happen between two toddlers I would be more worried!”
The couple says that having control over what the cameras are — and are not — allowed to capture allows them to comfortably bring the show’s faithful fan base along on their family’s journey, even when the road takes such unexpected turns.
“We both agree, our family, health, and happiness comes first,” Jen says. “If at any point we feel the show is detrimental to the kids or us, we both have no problems stopping. We both monitor closely our kids reactions to the cameras during filming and limit it based on their well-being. Anything we think the kids might grow up and say, ‘Mom and Dad, how could you have shown that about me on TV?!” is something we leave out. We are happy to show real life as parents and a family, but we do have editing rights to ensure that nothing detrimental is aired. So far, we feel fortunate to have been able to make it all work.”
The new episodes will also feature the Klein-Arnold clan celebrating Will’s fourth birthday, the children’s baptisms, Christmas — and Jen’s 40th birthday. And it looks like a happy ending for the family is in the offing: Jen’s cancer is now in remission.
“My prognosis is very good,” she says. “I still must undergo close monitoring for a long time, but recurrence rates are low for my type of tumor. I’m ready for the road to recovery!”
New episodes of The Little Couple premiere Tuesdays at 10/9CT on TLC beginning March 4.