To understand my dating journey after breast cancer, you need to understand my back story.
In 2008, my 21-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Locked-in Syndrome; a condition of complete body paralysis. Given this, I was occupied full-time with her prognosis and wasn’t really concerned the first time I found a new lump on my breast. The lump had a triangular-rectangular shape, and surely all cancerous lumps are circular – right?
I was wrong. To my shock and dismay, I later found out I had a unique subset of breast cancer called invasive pleomorphic lobular carcinoma. As I was occupied with taking care of my daughter, my dating life took a back seat. It wasn’t until recently that I could make time for myself and began to date again.
The idea of dating after breast cancer and a mastectomy can be scary. It can leave you feeling insecure, and uninterested. There were lots of questions and concerns going through my mind, like: When was the ‘right’ time to mention my cancer to someone; Was my cancer going to be seen as a ‘weakness’; and would the physical changes after a mastectomy be of concern to men?
As a woman who has experienced these emotions, and dated various partners throughout her breast cancer journey, here are five things I learned about navigating the dating jungle after breast cancer:
1_Just go for it
The more I talked about breast cancer with my dating partners, the more comfortable I felt. I know it can seem daunting – but you need to start somewhere. The most difficult time to talk about cancer will be the first time; it only gets easier. Cancer touches nearly every person in the world in some way or form, and because of this, I’ve found my partners to be very understanding, heartened, and sympathetic to my story.
2_Your journey makes you, you
Despite the trials and tribulations that cancer has forced you to face – your cancer journey is part of you. I learned that surviving the traumatic events in my life – like my cancer and my daughter’s diagnosis – gave me a profound sense of gratitude, pride, and self-empowerment. Without these experiences, I would not be the woman I am today. As you meet your dating partners, don’t forget to embrace your journey and how it has shaped you.
3_Find your confidence
When I finally proceeded with breast reconstruction seven years after my mastectomy, I was surprised at how liberated my implants made me feel; they gave me a new sense of confidence that has really helped me in my dating life. Breast reconstruction might not be for everyone – but I think it’s important to find what it is that gives you back that spark of confidence and inspires your self-assurance.
Find what it is that gives you back that spark of confidence and inspires your self-assurance when it comes to dating.
4_Your journey will teach you what you want from life
I’ve dated before breast cancer, and I’ve dated after cancer, and the one major change I noticed is what I look for in a partner. After cancer, I developed a new sense of strength and self-empowerment, and now, I look for people that reflect these traits. My experience has taught me to know what I want out of a partner and out of a relationship. I feel more confident dating now than ever before.
After cancer, I developed a new sense of strength and self-empowerment, and I now look for people that reflect that.
5_We all carry scars
Scars can be external, like those after a mastectomy, or internal; but the truth is we all have them. The beauty in dating is realizing this, and connecting to the stories behind those scars. If you’re able to do that, you’ll be able to develop meaningful connections you otherwise might not have expected.
6_Don’t be afraid
I am a big believer in acknowledging and monitoring one’s mental state, and that the ability to do this will influence your outcomes. The truth is when it comes to dating – you’ve battled the terrifying monster of cancer – why should you be afraid of dating? Cancer survival teaches us not to be afraid and to walk forward with our heads held high. Have faith in yourself, and your choices.
I choose to stay positive about dating after breast cancer and I live in hope that I will find a man who will take on my journey for the exciting adventure it is. You should too.
Jane took part in Pink Hope and AirXpanders’ ‘Candid Conversations’ collaboration to open a dialogue about life after breast cancer. You can watch Jane talk about her experiences about dating after breast cancer below.