Love And Cancer Drugs: How My Disease Taught Me Self-Love

by Allie Vreeland

You know that whole Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind” spiel? Well sh*t, I hope that’s true.

I seem to be at that age when everyone is pairing up, getting engaged and having babies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about these things. Even as a child of divorce, I have always believed I would meet Mr. Wonderful and live happily ever after.

I wasn’t the kind of girl who thought up every detail for her future wedding, and I’ve never really pictured running after a little clone of myself. However, deep down I always knew someday I would have a nice house, a few children and a man to grow old with.

But sometimes, life pulls you in a direction you never thought possible. Last Christmas, in between trimming the tree and decking the halls, I stumbled upon a lump in my right breast. Being the easygoing optimist I am, I took my time getting to the doctor. On Feb. 10, 2015, at the age of 27, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments and a double mastectomy with an axillary dissection, I can say I am cancer free. Unfortunately, I have five weeks of radiation to go and 10 years of hormone therapy after that. I like to call this my road to remission.

Getting the "Big C" made me think more significantly about my future. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding made me hope I’d be able to have a wedding of my own. Similarly, being told I will have to be put into chemical menopause for a decade and get rid of my ovaries made me think of the children I never knew I wanted.

Throughout the course of this well-oiled machine that is cancer, I have never felt as though I was dying or not going to make it. I have never felt hopeless or incurable. But out of all the ridiculous feelings I could have concerned myself with about cancer, I have on occasion felt unlovable.

Not to sound snotty or conceited by any means, but I have never felt that way before, ever. I’ve had my fair share of suitors (if you will) and I’ve always felt desirable, despite my vampire-like complexion and my far from perfect figure.

Truthfully, I’ve not had many boyfriends. But I’ve always had options and felt confident enough to know at some point I will meet someone who will love me and who I will love in return.

Now, at times, I’m having trouble holding onto that hope.

This time last year, I had been dating a lot. After a handful of bad dates and a couple potentials, I finally felt that spark when I met someone a bit out of my comfort zone.

He was tall, dark, handsome and fun. However, he was a bit hot-and-cold when it came to our relationship and I was doing one of those classic, “I really like you so I’m going to go with the flow and hopefully you’ll give me more” kind of thing.

Deep down, I knew things would be coming to an end soon. Six months into our relationship, two pivotal events were upon us. The first was Valentine’s Day, which we all know sparks the flight instinct in men. The second, slightly more sticky situation, was I had to confess my diagnosis to him because Cancerland was around the corner.

Needless to say, the relationship abruptly ended. I’d like to think it was solely because of the cancer. To be honest, I could see how that's a huge burden to place on a significant other, especially when you’re just starting to know the other person.

In the end though, we couldn’t have a face-to-face adult conversation about my diagnoses and I knew he could never be as emotionally strong as I needed him to be.

A week after Valentine’s Day, I started chemo and I haven’t dated, kissed or even spoken to someone with romance in mind. Not because of him, but because of what cancer did to me and what it took away from me.

Even as I start to feel like myself again, I don’t know how to enter that part of my life. I’m scared. I’m self-conscious. When do you tell someone you have cancer? How do you tell them?

So many other women I’ve met who have gone through cancer were married or engaged at the time. I am now 28, single and afraid. Even as a cancer survivor, I’m not sure how I would feel meeting someone and really liking them, only to find out they had/have cancer. It's horrible, but I don’t know how I would react to that.

All these things have been on my mind for a while, but the reason I’m sharing now is because something happened.

A young, exceptional looking man took me by surprise. He told me I was beautiful numerous times despite my GI Jane buzz cut.

We went for a walk. It was innocent, and although he wanted to kiss me, I said “no” and went to bed with a smile on my face knowing I still got it.

I now realize everyone has baggage and issues, be it cancer or simply an uncle with flatulence problems. The bottom line is, relationships and love are scary for everyone.

So, if you ever lose your dreams of love and family, I hope a cute stranger takes you for a walk and tells you how beautiful you are.