I'm a breast cancer survivor. Surviving the cancer was a piece of cake. I was lucky, a double mastectomy, no chemo, no radiation and no drugs. Easy, over and done. But taking the breasts off a single woman who is actively dating - that's the tough part!
First there's the expanders after surgery to stretch your skin so implants will eventually fit. Expanders are made of hard plastic, not exactly lifelike. My first Expander Date was with a great, fun guy who, later into the date, came up behind me and put his arms around me. Did he feel them? I was freaked! I ended up telling him about everything later that night and he was so understanding and sympathetic and just wrapped me up in his arms to let me know it was okay. And at that moment it was. That moment.
Then the time comes when you've expanded enough for implants. I came to realize that no matter what size you tell your plastic surgeon you want to be, you will be a D. I wanted to be a B, maybe a small C. I came out of surgery a D. I'm 5'1" and 100 pounds. Me and a D just don't go together. So I spent a long time searching for a solution, but that's another story.
You think it's over now and life will go on as before, but it's not. This is a new normal. Having a double means you have no more breast tissue which means no more feeling in your breasts. No more taut nipples. And a bunch of scars that travel across your breasts like a roadmap. Try explaining that to the next guy you're dating and want to sleep with. Reactions vary. This is where the road gets tougher.
This is the time that you have to truly believe in yourself - when he doesn't call you again after you told him, or he can't understand why you won't let him touch you and he thinks you don't like him, or that you're not even worthy of being loved until your body looks nearly perfect again - you have to believe with your entire being that you're still the same loving, giving, fun and sexy girl you were before your breasts were taken off. This is the hard part.
This is when you find out how truly healthy or truly damaged your self esteem really is. Can you justify when he ghosts - he wasn't the one, it's his loss, I didn't like him that much anyway. Can you pick yourself up and go on one more date and tell yourself this could be it, the man who will make all the disappointments worthwhile. And if it's not this one, can you do it again? And again? Can you believe there is someone out there who will look at you and see you and love what he sees? I believe. I truly do. Proven over and over again by my heart that perseveres no matter how hurt or sad or astonished it has been. I am beautiful and I am whole and I am ready for love. I deserve to be loved. I believe.
Strange bedfellows - single, dating and a double mastectomy. Somehow they don't seem to go together, yet they do for millions of women. We who somehow fear, yet are so excited by the next first date. We who sometimes question the beauty of our own body and try to figure out how to coexist with the past and the present images. We who want love and acceptance and to know we're okay just as we are. And although we all know that looks aren't everything, to us it is. We have to learn to love the scars and the bumps and the bruises amassed along the way.
Yes, we're all eternally grateful to be cancer free, this is a separate issue. This is the issue of life after the surgery and chemo and radiation. Now we have to live the after life that breast cancer gave to us. This is what true survivors are made of.