Dating in this day and age can stress out even the calmest of people. It’s filled with ambiguity, and with today’s dating apps, the experience can make one feel insignificant and easily disregarded with one swipe to the left. Now imagine navigating through today’s uncertain dating waters after having gone through an intense change.
This is the challenge that many single cancer survivors face. Some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive this dreaded disease without a partner. Today, more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer in their thirties as opposed to previous generations who often developed this disease at an older age. Also, in general, women are putting off marriage and partnership until later in life, as career and living in cities becomes more of a priority.
When a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and without a partner, it can be extremely difficult to gain confidence while dating. Some of these women have not only gone through chemotherapy and radiation, losing their hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and even partial fingernails, they also have endured a double mastectomy. This procedure leaves women with no breast tissue. To then recreate breasts, plastic surgeons can use fat deposits from other parts of the body, such as the thigh or stomach, and reuse that tissue to form a breast. For women who do not have enough fat for this procedure, implants are placed where breast tissue used to be.
Women who have undergone this invasive surgery are left scarred with sometimes deep and permanent burns from radiation. This takes a massive toll on a woman both physically and mentally. To bounce back from such trauma and then to be thrust out into the dating world can be stressful and nerve-racking, to say the least.
Here is how one breast cancer survivor found the confidence and calm inside herself to maneuver through the rough world of dating, through which she discovered self-love and acceptance from within.
Erica W. resides in New York City and was diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer at the age of 33. Since then, Erica has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and last year, a double mastectomy. Erica is beautiful and fit, with a thriving career and amazingly positive outlook on life. She exudes charisma wherever she goes and has balanced both a cancer diagnosis and dating life simultaneously with great success. Here is her advice on how to date after diagnosis.
1. Managing the Stress After Diagnosis: How To Remain Calm on a First Date
Erica advises knowing your own incredible strength, which will provide inner peace and self-assurance while on a first date.
“I think once you realize how much of a warrior you are after beating this terrible disease you gain a sense of confidence and can apply it to any situation, a date, a work function, or a night out with friends. When I go on dates I always tell myself that the man I am meant to be with will be impressed by my strength and see that as a huge benefit in a potential relationship. If a man cannot handle it, then they are simply the wrong man for me!”
Know that you have been through one of the toughest roads life can present and are still standing. There is nothing you can’t survive so remind yourself to keep calm and focused on a date, so you can handle anything.
2. Telling A Date Your History: When Is The Right Time?
According to Erica, tear the Band-Aid off quickly. The sooner your date knows about your medical history, the more rapidly you can move on with your night and begin to enjoy yourself.
“On almost all of my first dates I have brought up my story. Generally, a guy will make a comment about how they love my short hairstyle and I will tell them I have cancer to thank for my new look. I think it is important to bring up the cancer history early so you can weed out a potential suitor who might be scared off. I will tell you that it has been a non-issue with all of my dates. They are generally blown away that I am so open and positive about it. They often talk about how happy they are that I am on the other side and still here.”
Erica believes that by telling your date right away about your past, you immediately show your strength and resilience, which will make a great first impression. Also, you can lift the weight of the information off your chest and enjoy your evening, limiting the stress of the first date.
3. Confidence With A New Body: How Do You Find It?
Dating is taxing in general. However, Erica believes that through breast cancer you can embrace your new body and breasts with appreciation and self-love that you might have previously overlooked.
“I think all survivors get to a place where they have tremendous perspective from this journey, where everything beyond cancer seems like icing on the cake. I think many women love their new breasts. I know that I do, so that really helps with maintaining physical confidence. I recently got a tattoo of a wave in between my radiation tats to commemorate my experience. I think the more women can embrace the journey and draw strength from the experience the easier it is to move forward.”
Erica says to look at your breast cancer journey as just one small part of your story and not view it as the entirety of who you are. By knowing what you have come through and looking at your new breasts and life perspective with gratitude and love, dating can be less stressful and your self-love can shine through even more than it did before diagnosis.
Erica believes, “ I look at my journey as a blip on the radar of my life. Some people are shocked by this philosophy, but it helps me to know that my life is not defined by cancer, that this was just part of my life story, one chapter.”