As a breast cancer survivor, I wanted a partner who saw me as more than the missing parts
This column is in the first person and written by Victoria Cassidy, a mother of three who lives in Saskatoon. For more information about first-person stories, see common questions.
I stand in front of the mirror, trying to make myself look as feminine as possible. I draw my eyebrows like I do every day and put on false eyelashes. Chemotherapy took away my eyebrows and eyelashes and made them sparser, but I continue this ritual — which I did before cancer, too — every day to remind myself and others that I’m still a woman.
Cancer may have taken over my uterus, breasts, and ovaries, but I’m still a woman, dammit, and I want a partner who can realize that and love me for me.
I was a 44-year-old mother of two, going through a divorce when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. After having a prophylactic hysterectomy, a left-sided mastectomy, having both ovaries removed, and finally a prophylactic left-sided mastectomy. On the right side, I didn’t feel like a whole person. I had a hard time accepting the fact that everything that made me feel feminine was gone.
Two years after my breast cancer diagnosis, I saw a photographer put out a template invitation on social media asking breast cancer survivors to participate in a photo shoot to raise money for a non-profit organization that supports cancer patients and their families. The resulting photo shoot made me feel attractive, confident and comfortable in my body in a way I never expected even before my breast reconstruction surgery.
I felt it was time to move from being single to meeting someone who accepts me for who I am. Despite my friends and family’s warnings about dating sites being toxic places, I felt good about myself and was excited to share bedroom photos on my dating profile.
I wanted to say, “Look at me. I’ve survived breast cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation, and I’m proud of myself.”
After all, I’m still a warm-blooded woman who craves the attention of someone who loves me. I wanted someone who could see me the same way I saw myself: someone I could be proud of. A survivor.
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Heartbreak dating sites
It was a few months before the pandemic that I put my profile on dating apps. That’s when I started facing rejection after rejection.
Whenever I started talking to a new guy, the moment I told him what I had been through and what I looked like, that was the end of the conversation.
In one case, I developed a strong connection with a man with whom I had several conversations, so I asked him out on my birthday.
When I decided to share with him that I was a breast cancer survivor, he told me about a friend who had gone through the same thing and how much he admired her for being so brave and strong. I felt confident that he was a great guy and that he understood my situation, so it’s hard to describe my sadness when I realized he’d blocked me the next day.
These men seem to view me as half a woman without my breasts. I felt so ashamed of letting my guard down and being so vulnerable that I put up a wall and thought I would never date again.
I have taken myself off dating sites except for one. I didn’t have high hopes of meeting a partner, but I loved having someone to talk to when I was left alone while my kids were with their dad.
That’s when I started talking to another guy. Our conversations filled a void and void inside me. This time, I talked to him about my cancer history before we met, and he assured me he didn’t mind.
We’ve been together for two years now. This guy is so sweet and funny and makes me laugh like no one else does. He sees me as a woman; Not like the cancer that invaded my body. He sees me as a survivor. He sees me. I’m weak with him. I showed him my scars from the past six years, and he sees me.
He doesn’t know me any other way except for who I am and accepts me as I am.
It makes me feel like the old Vicki—the person I was before cancer took my uterus, breasts, and ovaries. I’m still feminine in my new body.
This is a brighter place for me to be – I’m not focusing on what I’ve lost. I am whole and loved, just as I am.
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