While I’ve been trying to keep most of my breast cancer stuff over at http://doublewhammied.com/, I was recently asked to do a Q&A for TalkAboutHealth.com, a website “where patients and caregivers get personalized, helpful, and accurate answers from experts, survivors, and partner organizations.” Since some of the questions they tossed my way had to do with dating and breast cancer — and living with breast cancer as a single woman — I thought it might be appropriate to post about it here.
For those who might be curious, I’m all done with treatment now and am spending the next few months writing, recuperating and researching the next phase of my exciting cancer adventure: reconstruction. I’m also trying to figure out what to do with my new hair (it’s growing in much darker and curlier than it was before). And — who knew? — starting to realize there’s a whole segment of men who like really, really short hair. ; )
As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my thoughts on the single life and that crazy thing we all call dating.
How did you get started dating after breast cancer? What was the most difficult aspect?
Oddly enough, I never really stopped dating through my whole breast cancer ordeal. I had just started seeing someone when I was diagnosed and that relationship (which was rather tenuous anyway) bowed and finally broke under the pressure of the cancer and a host of other things. After that, I went out with a couple of other guys (and even reconnected with my ex for a bit) but most of my time and energy was spent on doctors’ appointments and tests and of course freaking out about my upcoming double mastectomy. I thought losing my breasts would mean the end of my dating life, my sex life, etc. But as it turned out, I recovered from surgery much faster than I expected (both emotionally and physically) and ended up going out on a date just two weeks after losing my girls. To read more, click here.
What advice would you give to other survivors about dating after cancer?
Dating after cancer isn’t really all that scary. Seriously, after being pumped full of poison and having our bodies blasted with radiation, I think most of us can fake our way through an hour or two of coffee and conversation with a potential love interest. Sex after cancer, on the other hand, can be a bit daunting. Especially if you’re missing some essential body parts. And all of your hair. And the feeling in what used to be your chest.
What worked for me was to try to “rebuild” myself (paging the bionic woman!), to put myself back together using a wig and fake boobs and makeup. That helped me feel like myself so I felt more confident going out there meeting and interacting with men. But everybody’s different so trying to “pass” may not work for everybody. And dating so quickly after treatment (or even amid treatment) may not work for people, either. I was lucky in that I only had four infusions of chemo and I seemed to endure it pretty well (as long as I took my meds, anyway). Same goes for radiation. To read more, click here.
As a single woman, where did you get the support you needed while going through cancer treatment?
I’ve been single for most of my adult life and have even developed a bit of a writing platform regarding the single life with a book (How to Date in a Post-Dating World), an anthology of essays (Single State of the Union) and a humor column (Single Shot), published by the now-defunct Seattle P-I.
For me, singledom is a natural state. Instead of being cloistered away as one half of a couple, I have a huge circle of friends — people I’ve worked with, people I’ve gone to school with, fellow writers, gal pals, neighborhood buddies, drinking buddies, old boyfriends, sources that turned into friends, the list goes on and on. I also have four sisters, all of whom I’m close with. I had so many people I needed to tell about the breast cancer, in fact, I eventually started an email newsletter (the Cancertown Gazette). And then a blog (http://doublewhammied.com/).
My sisters probably did most of the heavy lifting when it came to day-to-day support during my breast cancer treatment. They were there for me before and after surgery, even helping me with drain duty (and an apartment makeover). They also went to some of the early doctors’ appointments, when things were still very dark and raw and scary, talked with me daily via phone, sat through a couple of sessions of chemo (and chemo recovery) with me and prepared a ton of meals for my freezer. My friends were equally supportive, doing everything from bringing me food (pie! lasagna! homemade soup!) to giving me lifts to radiation to sending flowers and other gifts to taking me on weekend getaways. Friends and family both chipped in financially to help me pay for a wig made from my own hair (and those are not cheap). They also stayed in contact with me regularly, took me for walks when the chemo knocked the legs out from under me, and in general, made me feel loved and appreciated and cared for at all times. To read more, click here.