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’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.  

6 Responses to “Dating with breast cancer”

  1. Kim November 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I’m not dating, but am living with my boyfriend of almost three years. He is significantly younger than I am and faced my recent news (diagnosed Sept 2011) like…well…I don’t know. I can’t say, “Faced it like a man”, because clearly, men don’t handle this sort of thing well. I can’t say, “Faced it like a woman”, because all of the women in my life cried when they heard the news. I guess he “faced it like a dog”. I have two Golden Retrievers and he responded the same way that they did. They heard the news, ears perked and listening, then wagged their tails and continued to love me as if nothing had changed.

    • singleshot1 November 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Kim, I did a total spit take when I read the line about your boyfriend taking the news of your cancer diagnosis “lke a dog.” It doesn’t exactly sound like high praise, but it truly is. I’m so happy you’ve got a “good boy” at your side!

  2. Nancy's Point November 23, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    I think you got it exactly right. Cancer or no cancer, people are just people and it doesn’t mean they are going to act any better or any worse. I guess this goes for those of us with the cancer too doesn’t it?

    I can only imagine what dating post-cancer diagnosis must be like. I mean it’s hard enough before, right? Thanks for writing about it.

    • singleshot1 November 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      Thanks again for your kind words, Nancy. The dating thing can definitely be challenging, especially when it comes to spilling those cancer beans. (Not to mention the wig beans and the boobless beans.) I’m still trying to sort it all out.

      I suppose I could skip the dating until I’m “whole” again, but I have a feeling even with new breasts and hair I’ll still feel the same. My life, my body have been altered forever. Oddly enough, part of me feels like this is the perfect time to date — or at least to truly test the mettle of the men that I meet. I guess time will tell, eh?

  3. Monika December 6, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    Dating was like jumping into an icy lake. Exciting and terrifying. It really is about your attitude towards cancer. Very few men or women get “cancer” unless they have gone through it with someone. I felt violated and mad when after the first time my husband saw me post mastectomy naked, he moved out and eventually divorced me. The next step was to heal myself and remember beauty is only skin deep. Any person that can be that shallow is not a real friend, let alone a husband.
    The men that I have encountered dating, all are tested by their knee jerk reaction to “cancer survivor”. Some react like inquisitive school children and others are “dogs”! I prefer the dogs, lol.

  4. Trisha March 2, 2016 at 12:03 am #

    I had only been dating for 6 mos but it was semi-serious. We had made plans to go to Disney World with my kids to bond. Things were going smoothly. The day of my mammogram he was concerned and I wasn’t since it was my 14th… Always negative. Then the shock. The subsequent suggestion he could get out now since it wasn’t what he signed up for. The statement that absolutely not, but that was a knee jerk reaction on his part. He distanced himself week to week and cancelled his portion of Disney World and subsequent visits. Excuse that I was busy with treatments and had family to care for me. Then the discussion that distance was too much of a chore. Then single again. It was a lot to swallow but I stayed semi-positive. Dated post chemo but all through radiation. That was a mistake I think now because the guy fell in love with my illness instead of me.

    Jump a couple of months. Feeling great. Feeling positive. Get talked into online dating. My hair came back silver and curly whereas all of my pics are with long dark hair. Finding most fall in love with my long locks and are taken aback by my current do. A handful are less shallow but I believe the pool is less for us survivors at least in the early aftermath. I’ve had quite the range of responses. One told me I wasn’t suitable for a long term relationship. One wanted to know about reconstruction. One asked if I was going to live? There is a lot of really intelligent people out there. Like…yeah… I’m out here dating because I won’t live much longer? Some you want to kick. I have made more friends from dating online than potential partners but that’s ok. One will come along eventually. I made a promise to myself. If you don’t put your heart out there you will never find him.

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