Mastectomy and the single girl

I’m still not sure if this was really brave or really stupid, but whatever the case, I decided to write a series of personal essays about my battle with breast cancer for Today/  The first, “Mastectomy and the Single Girl,” went live today. Here’s how it starts:

Most people cry and cuss and rage at the universe when they’re first diagnosed with breast cancer.

Me? I scheduled a pin-up shoot.

Not that I didn’t do all of that other stuff, too, along with cracking bad jokes and mocking any and all medical personnel within spitting distance.

When the radiologist — aka Dr. Debbie Downer — came into that small dark room to tell me that the ultrasound had found three masses in my two breasts, I cried and raged plenty. I also told her I couldn’t have cancer because I was health writer, as if knowledge comes with a protective shield.

But just like the other 230,000 plus women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. every year, I had no shield. What I had instead was a needle biopsy, which confirmed that the masses were all positive for invasive lobular carcinoma, a “sneaky” cancer seldom found in the early stages because it doesn’t create a lump.

One of the tumors had caused a tuck, though, a small dent under my left nipple. That dent — and the fact that I had checked it out — undoubtedly saved my life.

To read the rest of the piece, click here.   To find out more about Old School Pinups, the people who did my pin-up shoot (including the attached photo), click here

My next essay, “Love in the Time of Chemotherapy,” will come out next week (I’ll post another link when it goes live).  As always, folks, I look forward to your thoughts on the piece.

Unless your name happens to be “SueinTX“.  Sheesh lady, lighten up. I got cancer here!  ; )

18 Responses to “Mastectomy and the single girl”

  1. 1 Kristi October 14, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Great article! And no you aren’t selfish for feeling a big loss of your boobs when you are single. I’m 33 and recently single and have worry thoughts that I would lose them (I guess it’s doing all the breast cancer activities this month). I would probably create a bucket list myself.

  2. 2 Deborah October 14, 2011 at 10:51 am

    What an awesome message. Lady, you rock!! Your positive, funny attitude will surely get you through your journey. We are more than the sum of our parts (I liked that phrase.) You will be an inspiration to many women who are freaking out about having breast cancer. Thank you for sharing and God bless.


  3. 3 Natalie V2 October 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Love your honesty. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. 4 Sue October 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Loved this article….I’m preparing to have my reconstrutive surgery for a left breast mastectomy done in May…I am 44 and single…..and I LOVED my boobs too and worry what will happen the first time I’m naked in front of a man…I’m looking forward to reading your articles and blogs…..I’m sure you are quite busy but would love to correspond via email if you’d like…..Thanks!


  5. 5 Neola October 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Just read your article on I could relate, although I was very, very lucky. In 1992 I had some blood coming out of one nipple – which meant I had a rare type of tumor or breast cancer. My first thought was “I’m not done with them yet!” It was my second and third thoughts which made me face the reality that breast cancer might not mean just losing my breasts but maybe also my life.

    Well, I had the rare type of tumor and it was surgically removed. I’m 50 now, like you Diane. Ever since that scare I am not afraid to show a little cleavage. One day they’ll be gone, either with me or ahead of me, and I want to enjoy them as much as possible before them.

  6. 6 Linda October 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    What a great article! You nailed it, ALL of it. I am 50 and got a double mastectomy last year. During all of it my divorce became final. The divorce was my idea but it was still hard, at the time it seemed harder than the cancer.

    So now I too am trying to wrap my brain around dating with two horizontal scars and fabricated nipples on my near perfect implants. It’s a bit daunting, to say the least. I was definitely afraid of the initial unveiling of new new (and not) improved girls. I got very lucky and met a man who at the perfect time, said to me “Your boobs are beautiful!” I could’ve cried right then and there. But of course, I was in the middle of something so I just let myself go and quit worrying. I’m sure they all won’t be as sweetly eloquent as he, but there wasn’t a more perfect comment to be made at that moment for me!!

    I will go back and read all your posts and look forward to your future posts! Thanks for making this a fun column!!!

  7. 7 Strange Attractor October 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I love the story and your response. I am sad to learn of your diagnosis but love how you handled it. Good luck with all things coming your way! You’re an inspiration!

  8. 8 Jill October 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Hang in there! I had a double mastectomy when I was 30 and single. I went on to get married and have 2 kids. I have no regrets ever! My mom had breast cancer when she was in her 20’s. The surgeons butchered her (her surgery was in the 60’s) I grew up making jokes about things with my mom. Vanity is so over-rated. Best of luck to you! Love your attitude!

  9. 9 K October 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I left a post on the MSN site under “looking&livingforward”…you are an inspiration for women who will undergo this journey or are in it now. Great friends, humor and a positive attitude got me through. I wore ball a ball cap that said “Bad Hair Day”. No type of counseling for the psychological/sexual repercussions was ever offered and as a single woman, this just adds another dimension to the world of dating. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the articles. K.

  10. 10 Mike Firesmith October 15, 2011 at 4:13 am

    I vote brave.

    I’ve never seen two women react the same way to breast cancer, and likely never will. This is a good thing to write about it to show other women they can express what they feel about the disease.

    Take Care,

  11. 11 Linda October 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Diane you’re very inspiring! What an incredible attitude and I love how you’re handling the situation head-on and not letting it take down your spirit or dampen your enthusiasm for life. I wish you all the best and a full recovery and keep on rockin’ girl ’cause you’re 100% awesome!

  12. 12 Angie Hott October 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Hi Diane-
    I saw your post on MSN and am cheering you from our WV hills! Yeah for you! We, too, can relate to your “bucket list” Here is our story after my husband’s news of Parkinson’s and Brugada. Our bucket list took us to the ocean, several times, with the kids. It was a summer we will never forget!


  13. 13 Sherree Worrell October 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Love your attitude and courage. The idea of the Bucket List is awesome. Cheering you on to a full recovery.



  14. 15 Victoria October 20, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Diane – nothin’ but nothin’ but fabulous. Thank you for sharing, for the inspiration, and for the smile while reading it. Mine was in 2010. And like you, I brought this experience to my profession. I’m a somatic sex educator and erotic living coach. I now have a section tailored for women who’ve been through breast cancer – “Sexy BC Free.” (Also something for men who have had health issues.) So here’s to all of us who continue to kick our highest, no matter if we feel a little lopsided while doing so. 😉

  15. 16 Dave deBronkart (@ePatientDave) October 22, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Holy crap, lady. I don’t remember where I stumbled on the first of these posts 4 hours ago, but am I ever glad to have found you. LOVE your voice, attitude, authenticity, your approach to the whole thing, including your reactions on the penis point. (Same for your urge to let one’s inner copy editor loose before posting certain comments.)

    Duly subscribin’, here.

    e-Patient Dave,
    kidney cancer 4 years ago

  16. 17 Jody Schoger (@jodyms) October 24, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Thanks to @epatientDave for introducing me to your work, Diane! The best thing for breast cancer blogging is women like you who say it ALL. Tho I’m sad to have another awesome women join the club you never aspired to, I welcome you.

    I had the “sneaky cancer” too and had the full nine yard treatment plan. That was thirteen years ago. I wish you all the best,

  17. 18 Jacqui Kelly October 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Breast cancer sucks. Good for you doing a pinup shoot !!!
    I was lucky to have the support of the worlds most amazing pinup model Bernie Dexter.
    I have Stage3a b/c and mine was not seen with a mammo.Those of us with dense breasts need a digital mammo or regular mammo & ultrasound.
    Jacqui xx

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What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

October 2011

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