Faced with a life-threatening diagnosis, a Missouri couple found healing through woodworking.
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Brittany Dyer Heather Debert Beautiful Fight Woodworking
Brittany Dyer (seated) and Heather Debert at their shop, Beautiful Fight Woodworking.
| Credit: Brandon Alms

When doctors told Brittany Dyer she had a spinal cord tumor and blood cancer, the then 21-year-old went into fighter mode. She beat cancer, but her illness and a subsequent car accident led to limited mobility. Looking to adapt her career, Dyer and her wife, Heather Debert, bought a miter saw and boards. Seven years later, they've built a business (Beautiful Fight Woodworking)—and a life—in Springfield, Missouri, around furniture and optimism.

You beat cancer, but a car accident set you back again. How did you cope?

BD: I was working with children with autism and it was very rewarding. I was devastated to have to leave my career when my body couldn't keep up. I always found my identity through doing physical things, so when I couldn't do that anymore, I had to reshape myself.

So, why woodworking?

HD: I wanted to be supportive of whatever Brittany wanted to do. I knew we could find something that would help her grow and not feel like she was losing a part of who she was. That's when I saw a wooden sign on Facebook and thought, could we make and sell this?

Surely there had to be a learning curve. Any embarrassing stories?

BD: We built a replica of the original Hurts Donut shop, and it was an inch too tall to get out the door. We had to hire someone to weld off part of our warehouse to get it out.

Oof! Working with your partner must have highs and lows.

BD: It's such a different dynamic. You have to make sure there's time when you're not being bosses to each other, and you can step aside from work to have dinner. You don't want to mistake all that time together for quality time.

HD: The biggest reward is that I get to spend as much time with her as possible. But I do hate that she steals all the pencils.

Brittany, you have a lifting restriction of 20 pounds. How do you and Heather share responsibilities?

BD: I do the overall design as well as painting and staining since I can do those things sitting down. Heather does the heavy lifting like cutting and sanding. We work together to assemble most items, and I often work the store. I want to do so much more than my body allows, but I am so grateful to be able to do woodworking at any level.

You specialize in custom farmhouse furniture. What's your favorite piece to make?

BD: I'm a sucker for dining room tables because I'm super sentimental. Thinking about families coming around the table, sharing meals together, having conversations—that's special to me.

What's something you've learned about yourself through this process?

BD: I've learned I am capable of much more than I, or my doctors, expected. But there's a humbling side to that, and limitations I have to live within. I need to push myself sometimes, but also respect my body and back off. I never would have expected that we would own a business, much less a store.

Where did the name Beautiful Fight come from?

BD: During my battle with cancer, I learned the neurology department is a dark place. I wanted to be a beacon of light there. That's where I recognized, this is my beautiful fight. I want to add something beautiful; even if it's just one smile for one person that makes their day a little brighter. When we started woodworking as a business, it seemed like a perfect fit. It has been a battle at times, but there is so much beauty.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.