When is it ever a good time to try to begin dating after a double mastectomy … and after cancer? Is it 6-months? A year? Two years? I’ve pondered this so much lately. I think the answer ultimately depends on the person, and for me … I think a little over six months of my cancer being in remission is a good time.
Mentally I feel great. Admittedly I still get overwhelmed and very stressed out … especially when I think back about how my life was exactly one year ago. Thanks to my Facebook memories I can look back and I can read exactly what I was going through:
At this time a year ago, I had gone through 3 surgeries – the first being the complete removal of my breasts. I was struggling with the expanders; I could not lay down, it hurt to walk and to breathe. I endured weeks of agonizing pain until finally I gave up and had the expanders removed, making it 4 surgeries in a 5-week period … just to heal from my breasts being removed and all the infections to turn around and begin 5 months of a very aggressive chemo treatment.
But How – and WHEN – do you tell someone that?
When do you tell them that the things that look like boobs under your shirt are temporary (and very weird, hard-feeling and kind of painful) expanders that are stretching your skin out, serving as a placeholder until you get your permanent breast implants in?
When do you tell them that your nipples are gone and they are not coming back? I mean, awesome that I’m going to get 3D nipples tattooed on eventurally, but at the end of the day, it’s a tattoo – not the real thing.
When do you tell them that your chest is permanently numb, so you’ll never really have feeling there again?
When do you tell them about the scars under your breasts that stretch the entirety of the front of your chest all the way to your back?
When do you explain the other scars – on your sides – underneath those big scars are from the drains?
When do you explain that the scar right under your clavicle – very visible to anyone – is where your chemo port was inserted and subsequently removed?
When do you bring up that because you tested BRCA 1 positive that you have to get a hysterectomy because your chances of ovarian cancer have skyrocketed – so if they ever had a dream of having kids, you’re not the one for them?
Not only when – but how?
How do you tell someone who you’ve just met all this?
This is my struggle. I have come to terms with my disease. I have come to terms with my battle. I have come to terms with my new body.
I do not like it like I liked my old body, but it is who I am now. I am alive. I had a long and hard fight in front of me, one that felt hopeless at times … but I slayed it. I beat this stupid disease and I am the victor. I am stronger now. I fought the fight of – and for – my life and won. And that’s all that should matter.
But it’s not.
I am 36 years old and single, looking for someone around my age to date and maybe settle down with … but I don’t even know when or how to begin?
I do not want to meet someone and base everything on a lie … well, maybe not a lie, but not disclosing this very relevant information. It’s not like my cancer has been in remission for years and I’ve already had all these surgeries and I’m just sort of here, living my dream.
I have two surgeries left, plus I have the 3D nipple tattooing … so if you exclusively date me you’re going to have to deal with these surgeries and my recovery process. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that I can never give you children. You’re going to have to deal with my insane amount of doctor’s appointments … and the days where I am just having a really bad day and just need you to be there because I am dealing with an internal demon that I just honestly cannot explain. You are going to have to deal with the fact that although I am super strong, I am also very fragile.
I also do not want to be viewed as a cancer patient. I struggle with this from everyone I know. I get it. People want to make sure I’m ok … but I’m a strong, independent woman. If I am not ok, I won’t go to work, or go for a jog, or clean the house. I will lay in bed all day and be completely unapologetic. But 85% of the time I am active … I walk/jog (2-4 miles) 4-5x per week. I work a full time job … and at said job, I basically do the jobs of 3 different people and manage them all perfectly. I volunteer for my son’s activities and am always there for him to help or just to listen to him. I am planning to work on some career enhancing certifications. I am taking on additional duties at my corporate office. I. Am. Good.
My friends, who know how strong I am, inadvertently place me in the “cancer patient bucket” so I am sure someone who I just met – who doesn’t know me or how strong I am – will definitely view me as a patient if I disclose this information upfront.
Then I ponder staying single … but I’ve been single for over 7 years – by choice. I was busy being a mom. I was busy with work. I was busy finishing my master’s degree. I was busy buying a house. I was busy volunteering. I was busy cleaning and running errands. I hardly ever made time for fun because I. Was. Busy.
Well, then I got a little free time, my son was a little older, I accomplished my goals and decided I could finally exhale and begin living – and having fun. Then about a month later – right after my 35th birthday – I found out that I had triple negative, aggressive, invasive breast cancer. And having a disease that almost killed me really made me realize how life is not guaranteed. Things can be so great … and all of a sudden, you get news that you have a very aggressive, invasive disease that may kill you. Literally, you have everything stacked against you and your only hope of surviving is that you caught it early.
Do you think for one second I want to sit around and wait until there’s a better time? Pro tip: As adults, it’s never going to be a good time. We have responsibilities – jobs, kids and/or families, errands, housework, yardwork, etc.
But as I have reflected on my life and what I want, I have decided that I want to get back to normal. Wear sun dresses, get massages, meet friends for happy hours, and date.
I am tired of sitting around my house alone. God gave me a second chance at life and I want to live it … but how – and when – will I ever meet anyone who can understand this and accept it?