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
ELAINE STANLEY, 61
Sterling Heights, MI
Counselor at SPIRIT (Sister Peer Counseling in Reproductive Issues after Treatment), a partnership between the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Sisters Network, Inc.
Diagnosed with stage I breast cancer in 1992
Mastectomy with reconstruction
I'm an African-American, 61 years old, and a 14-year survivor. My story is not a fairy tale. I have been lied to and stood up after I told my date about the breast cancer. Friends and my daughters all tried to set me up on dates. Everyone knew the perfect man for me, but they turned out to be wrong. I found dating to be a challenge, because some men will say all the right things, but don't mean what they say. Sometimes these guys, especially the more outgoing ones, put on a good show—an excellent show. Also, it can be challenging, owning your own home and dealing with some of these men. One guy came over, looked around, and said "Oh, I like this!" I thought, this is a boll weevil looking for a home. Recently, I met a man who has been in my corner for about a year and has accepted me for myself.
It took a while before I started dating after breast cancer. I was rather skeptical about the whole business. I can't exactly say when I started socializing again; it took at least five years, I think. I put it like this: I was diagnosed in 1992, and when I was stood up, it was the year 2000.
What happened was that one of my daughters met this gentleman. She had talked to him and told me, "I think he'd be an ideal person for you." I was really worried about meeting him, but we first talked on the telephone, and then I met him, and he seemed to be real nice. We went out to dinner a few times; we had been seeing each other for about a month. I had been invited to a special event, a black tie dinner birthday party, and wanted to ask him to accompany me. He didn't know that I'd had cancer, and I thought it was about time that I try and feel him out on this issue. So I talked to him about women having breast cancer, asked for his opinion. And he said, "Oh… well…I feel that if a woman survived it, she's had a second chance at life!" So he sounded very positive.
However, when I then told him that I was the person who had had breast cancer, it seemed like he backed off a little bit, but still, he was sympathetic and understanding. Then I asked him to go with me to the birthday party, and he said, "Oh, that sounds really great! I'll bring my suit over there, change at your house."
So when the day came, when it was time for him to come to my house, the telephone didn't ring, no one pulled up in the driveway. It was heartbreaking. One of my daughters let me wear her little diamond earrings, and I had made an outfit to wear, and one of my girlfriends had just bought a mink coat. She had never worn it, and she told me, "I want you to wear it first." My makeup was perfect. My neighbors came over with cameras; I mean, I looked like queen for a day. And everybody thought that the right man was coming to pick me up. And then it was a no-show.