It was a Saturday night, about a month before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I put on a long black pencil skirt that hugged my hips, a soft white blouse that showed off my cleavage and purple high-heels. My phone shook on the table. It was a text message from him: Im downstairs. Take your time.
My heart beat faster. I grabbed my red lipstick, sprayed on some perfume, grabbed my little red purse and rushed down the stairs. I hadnt seen him in a week, but it felt like a year. He got out of his shiny silver car. I felt butterflies in my stomach. He hugged me and lifted me off the ground. The red lipstick smeared over his lips. For about eight months, sparks flew every time I saw him.
When I got diagnosed with cancer that part of my life melted away. I didnt want to see him any more. Every breast cancer patient has a different attitude about sex. I lost interest the minute the concern about my health became much greater than anything else in my life.
Why would you make such an abrupt decision? Did I do anything wrong?
You havent done anything wrong. The circumstances in my life have changed.
What has changed? Are you going back to one of your ex-boyfriends?
No, I am not. I am going to be single for a while.
The conversation was short; I couldnt bear to tell him. Cancer treatment filled me with fear. The Nov. 10 surgery to remove my breasts was terrifying.
I did not undergo chemotherapy-induced menopause, but I will after my ovaries are removed. I understand this contributes to a decrease in sexual desire which is already nonexistent.
In an attempt to help me start dating, a new friend who is a breast cancer survivor had a party in her apartment with several women.
When you get back to your normal routines, your interest in sex may begin to return, she said. This is a good time for you to start dating. You have to come to the party. We want to help you.
I showed up and walked into a room full of amazing women: a judge, two attorneys, an actress and two college students. Three were cancer survivors.
We sat in a circle. The women shared some of stories about dating online and had us laughing over some of the nightmare dates they had.
One of the survivors, a married attorney who survived uterine cancer, was sitting with a laptop ready to write down what I said.
What type of man are you looking for?
Im not looking for a man, I thought. Im 34. I have experienced amazing connections in long-term relationships. I have been in love and have lived with a man I loved. Today, I dont care about my sexual life. I care about staying alive and losing weight.
But to keep an open mind, I threw out some adjectives: Smart, honest, kind, loyal, down-to-earth, and adventurous.
The party turned into group therapy when I told them that I didnt feel ready to date. I couldnt imagine any man other than my doctor seeing me naked. The breast implants hide under scars and I dont have nipples. My second reconstruction surgery is not until February.
You dont need to be a porn star to date. None of us have perfect breasts, one woman said.
Yeah, and not every guy is into breasts. My husband is not a boob guy, another said.
One by one they stood up and showed their breasts. All of the womens imperfections were beautiful. I found the courage to show them my breasts. I was especially ashamed about the skin discoloration where the radiation took place on the right side. It looks like a fake tan gone wrong.
Your breasts are not as bad as you think, one of the women said. You need to stay open to the idea of dating. It will be fun.
They wrote a paragraph describing how much I love my job, traveling, art and the type of man I would want to date. We will meet again to take pictures and publish it all on a dating site. Im grateful that they took the time to try to help me.
I left there feeling much more comfortable with my body and more confident that I will resume dating in the days ahead.