Dating After Breast Cancer
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Nine women talk about going out, looking for love, and when to bring up you-know-what
By Marion Long
REBECCA DENAY, 42
Editor and writer
Diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in 2004
Double mastectomy with reconstruction
I put my profile out on an online dating service, and I started getting messages. And I panicked! I thought, now what? One of the sites I had used early on was GreatBoyfriends.com, and I even wrote to its founder, E. Jean Carroll, asking how to proceed. I wrote, "At what point do I tell somebody that I have breast cancer—or that I had it? When do you tell?"
And E. Jean Carroll wrote back, telling me, "It looms large in your life, but there's no reason to tell anyone until you've met, and you've exchanged many e-mails, and you make sure there's something there between the two of you."
So I went on a couple of dates following that advice. I was also wearing a wig on these dates; when I went to work I would just wear a baseball cap. And it felt so completely dishonest. I thought, well, what am I going to do here? Am I going to get to date number three and say, "Oh, by the way…" and reveal the cancer and the surgery? It just wasn't me at all. And although almost everyone advised me against it, I went back and rewrote my online dating profile, and I said, "I'm a cancer survivor, and I cannot have children. If you want to have your own biological children, and you can't deal with the uncertainty of living with a woman who has cancer, then please don't contact me."
So I put it out there right from the beginning, and I thought, if they can cope with it, fine. If they can't, I don't want them around anyway. And maybe that weeded out a lot of people, I don't know, but I've got lots of messages and lots of men writing me from all over the country. And I've gone on lots of dates.
My breasts and my hair were my best features. Everyone has always told me I'm pretty, but to me, they were clearly the prettiest things about me. I had glorious, beautiful long hair that everybody remarked on, and I had beautiful breasts. And I loved them! I really did. They were beautiful, and they were soft, and they were a big part of intimacy, they were a big part of allowing a man into my space. They were a big part of tenderness. You know, there's sex and then there's intimacy and there's tenderness, and my breasts were a big part of that. So I feel like that has been a real loss.
And I think it continues to be a loss. You accept it, you hope you find a man who enjoys the implants for what they are, and if he does, then that in itself is exciting and you feel accepted and you still have that.