Dating After Breast Cancer
Nine women talk about going out, looking for love, and when to bring up you-know-what
By Marion Long
SHERRY PETER, 51
Diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 2000
Bilateral mastectomy, no reconstruction
I knew that if I started dating again, I did not want any man to know my cancer without knowing me first. So when I met John, he didn't know about my cancer. We talked on the phone for about six weeks. He called me and wanted to go out, but I wasn't ready yet. I was very shy, very protective of myself. The cancer was in my past. What I wanted more than anything was for a man to know me as Sherry. So he got to know me, and I finally decided to meet him. Our first date lasted about 11 hours, but I did not tell him about my cancer. I wore my prosthesis. We just had a really fun day and enjoyed each other.
And guess what? He fell in love with Sherry. By the second date we'd spent a lot of time together talking, and I told him. He had asked me, "What happened with your relationship?" And I said, "Well, I got sick, and it was breast cancer, and he wasn't able to take care of me and he left, and then we got divorced, and that's what happened." And then later, soon after that, by the third date, we started hugging and kissing and stuff. I said, "Okay, I've got something else to tell you now." I said, "I had a bilateral mastectomy. This isn't me; these are prostheses. And I feel like when I'm hugging you, we've got these between us; it's not really me." And he said, "Well then, go take them off. I don't want something between us, I want to feel you."
Oh my god. So I went and I took them off. I had a T-shirt on, and I came out and he looked at me, and he goes, "Well, it's just you; it's okay, it's you." And he felt my chest, like, "Wow it's really flat. But it's cool." He doesn't like the prostheses at all. He'll say, "Why don't you take those things off?" if I have them on after work or something or if we're going out and I think the outfit looks better with them. Then later he'll say, "Go take them off—I like to feel you next to me, and how warm you are. I don't want to feel the plastic between us."
Nakedness, sex—all of it has been surprisingly easy. At first I was wearing my T-shirt all the time. And he said, "Why are you wearing that? Take it off." And now, because I don't have anything to show, I walk around with no top all the time if we're by ourselves. He never, ever, has made me feel like I was missing something. He's never made me feel like I didn't have my breasts; he never made me feel self-conscious. He'll kiss my scars just like they're breasts. And sexually, women have a lot of other things, too, to offer. He makes me feel beautiful all the time. So that's how it happened. We're getting married next year.