Finding love is not easy, especially after breast cancer treatment. But it is not impossible. Just ask Christine Zahralban.
A veteran prosecutor with the Miami-Dade state attorneys office, Zahralban was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer three years ago at age 39. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and six grueling months of chemotherapy.
It was a dramatic, emotional rollercoaster, says former colleague George D. Cholakis. The experience is painful and difficult on so many levels. It was not easy to watch her go through it all.
Says Zahralban: I have had my dark bouts with depression, but the light always shines through. I want women who are dealing with breast cancer treatment to know that there is hope.
Although her career was a priority, she never gave up on love, and signed up for an online dating service about two years ago. She connected with Scott Madden three months ago.
I knew the minute that I saw her that she was out of my league, said Madden, 46, a business executive. I noticed she was in control, and I have to be in control at work all of the time, so that was nice. The connection was instant. I havent left her side since.
As they got to know each other, Madden shared with her that his aunt had died of basal cell, a type of skin cancer, and that he had had three bouts of skin cancer that were caught early.
I am educated on the subject, and if she ever got sick again, I would be there for her, he said.
On Saturday, Madden and a dozen friends celebrated her Fourth of July birthday early at a Coral Gables restaurant.
I think right now her life has completely turned around, Cholakis said. I think she is generally happier, and there is a future.
To blow out the candles on her cake, Zahralban wore a short pink and white dress with a V-line that showed off her cleavage. (To get the look she wanted, she says, she brought X-rated photos to her plastic surgeon. She was so embarrassed. She didnt include it in my patient file. I guess she must have thought I was crazy.)
She still has to undergo another surgery, but she feels pretty. Her straight brown hair has grown back past her shoulders, and long lashes frame her big brown eyes.
At the birthday party, she winked at Madden and sat in his lap. His blue eyes focused on her as she spoke.
Im very attracted to her, he said. Her scars are not an issue for me. And you have to think that if they are that important to a man you are dating, then you may not really want to be with him. She is a beautiful woman in so many ways.
He calls her his little princess. She calls him her Prince Charming and her mush ball. Their song is God Blessed the Broken Road that Led Me Straight to You.
Dealing with breast cancer is not easy, but we never lost faith, said her mother, Elizabeth Zahralban, who is also a breast cancer survivor. This is the happiest I have seen her in years.
We really like her new boyfriend, said her father, Anthony. Put it this way, if she loves him, we love him.
Wedding bells are on the horizon. Madden, who has a 21-year-old son, said he would like to marry Zahralban. The couple is celebrating her birthday in North Carolina.
I want to travel the world with her, Madden said. Every minute I spend with her is special.
Zahralban is keeping Madden away from newspapers, computers and cell phones until Wednesday, when she plans to reveal a secret.
I do, without hesitation, want to spend the rest of my life with him, she said. I am in it for life.
And she has a question for him: Would you marry me?