It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I would be remiss if I did not write about one of the most challenging issues in my life to date. My struggle with breast cancer is not one I keep secret. However, something I don't talk much about is the challenges of being a single woman in the dating world after having major reconstructive surgery on my breasts.
I know this is an issue for many breast cancer survivors. Having spoken to many other women in my situation, it is met with mixed feelings. On the one hand, you are so grateful just to be alive and to have survived that you feel almost silly to complain about it, yet it is a very real issue. Many of us are young, single and have our whole lives ahead of us -- dating, sex and love should not be off the table. Granted, there is a time and a place for everything, but sometimes you just meet someone or want to continue to look for someone special if that was something you were interested in before you got sick. Once the dust settles and you realize that you have survived and you have a new body, it can be very challenging to feel comfortable with your body image. Not only is it a challenge for you, but it can be a particularly frightening thought when you imagine introducing your new body to someone else.
I have always been pretty comfortable with myself (inside and out). That is not to say that I am exceptional; I just have always been very self-accepting. I still feel that way. I adapted to my new body image with a fair amount of ease. However, I don't know how easily I could introduce my body to someone else in an intimate setting.
My friends and family have been wonderful throughout this whole experience and it has made it easier for me to discuss these body issues very openly and honestly with others. Attending a support group has helped as well. Between doctors, friends and family, more people have seen my new (and, might I add, nipple-less) breasts than I ever thought possible. I may have confidence but I'm not in the practice of flashing people, nor am I an exhibitionist. Shyness does tend to go out the window when you start down the breast cancer path, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
I mentioned that my breasts are currently nipple-less, right? I am about two-thirds of the way through the process of my reconstruction, so I still have some work to be done. That includes replacing the nipples. Hence, my apprehension about dating. I would think that may be a little off-putting to some but I've been very honest with people I date. I take things extremely slowly. I still love and accept myself fully and if someone can too, great! If they can't, that's a shame, because they are really missing out.
I guess where I'm going with this is that, yes, it is scary but so what? Anyone who has been through this has certainly been through scarier things and lived to tell about them. If there is anything this experience has taught us it should be that life is short and that we all deserve to have love, companionship, sex, fun, joy and whatever else we want in our lives. Any woman who has been through this and come out the other end has to be pretty amazing in my book! If someone else doesn't see that, they aren't looking hard enough and they're not worthy of you. As I wrote in one of my previous articles, "The Breasts Don't Make the Babe!" If all someone sees when they look at you are your breasts, they are missing out on so much and all you're missing out on is a shallow fool -- and those are a dime a dozen.