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Dating with breast cancer

22 Nov

A few weeks back, I published a story for MSNBC/Today called The Cancer Kiss-Off:  Getting dumped after diagnosis, prompted by some interesting research, some killer anecdotes and my own personal experience.

Now while it’s true that a study conducted by a handful of researchers, including Dr. Marc Chamberlain of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, did find that women diagnosed with cancer or MS are six times more likely to be separated than a man diagnosed with the same disease (as Chamberlain put it, “there was a disproportionate number of partner abandonments in female patients.”)

And while it’s also true that the fledging relationship I was in imploded shortly after my breast cancer diagnosis (oddly enough, after months of silence, the guy actually called to apologize for ditching me the very night before my Cancer Kiss-Off story went live – weird!), I don’t think breast cancer and broken hearts are a natural pairing, unless of course you’re married to Newt Gingrich.

Sometimes, the cancer diagnosis is just the straw that breaks Cupid’s already bowed back. Other times, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer may decide that life’s too short and staying in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship with an unsupportive partner is far worse than fighting this crappy disease alone.

Whatever the case, some of us with breast cancer eventually find ourselves Out There. And according to the women (and men) I talked to for a recent story I did for Match.com’s online magazine Happen, it’s not really that bad, especially if you have the right attitude.

And according to Gina Maisano, author of Intimacy After Breast Cancer, attitude is everything when it comes to dating — especially for women dealing with breast cancer.

“You can look at yourself as damaged goods or you can look at yourself as the strongest superhero on the planet,” Masaino says in my new story. “Surviving the words ‘You have cancer’ is enough to win a medal of honor. But to come out standing strong and moving forward with your life instead of living in a closet, that’s a powerful woman — and you should be proud of yourself.”

I’ve certainly been trying to give the whole dating with BC thing a go and have found it to be a mixed bag. Some guys completely get what you’ve been through and think of you as a cross between The Big C’s Laura Linney and Xena, the Cancer Warrior Princess. Other would just as soon steer the conversation back to their own fascinating challenges, like learning how to fly fish (yep, been there, suffered through that). Still others want to talk exclusively about reconstruction, as in when are you getting your new boobs and just how big are these boobs going to be. Sigh.

The bottom line is people are people and just because you’re an official card-carrying member of the Cancer Club, it doesn’t mean they’re going to act any better or worse than they normally would. That’s what makes life so fun and interesting and, yes, infuriating, at times. But you have to admit, it’s not boring. And that, my friends, is something.

So have you done any dating since your diagnosis? Have you, like me, actually tried to date through chemotherapy and radiation? If so, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, feel free to read about some inspiring success stories in my latest piece, Dating with Breast Cancer.