Dating After a Mastectomy: DOs and DON’Ts

So, Bryce and I broke up. Eight months ago. It didn’t seem like particularly crucial information to anyone’s life so I didn’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops (and by that I mean, post about it on the Interwebz). But lately I’ve received questions from other women about dating after a mastectomy, so it’s time to come clean about the break up.

Now, before I regale you with my dating experiences as of late, I want to make sure all of you ladies out there know that Bryce and I did NOT break up because of my mastectomy, my breast reconstruction, or my BRCA mutation. In fact, Bryce was 100% supportive throughout the entire process and showed a great deal of maturity, for which I’ll always be grateful. We broke up because at 22 years old, two+ years with the same person feels like a lifetime.

Sometimes I miss that Abe Lincoln lookalike, it’s true. And I definitely miss his puggle Hendrix. But I have, for the most part, been enjoying the single life. And it does make for some interesting reading material for the ol’ blog. So in order to report back to my loyal readers and answer your question “How do you tell someone you’re dating about your mastectomy/implants/BRCA mutation?”, I’ve been doing some research. And I’ve learned some DOs and DON’Ts of dating post-mastectomy. Over the next few months, I’ll be posting my findings…starting with:

googlestalkecard

DON’T ask a your date if he or she has Google stalked you. Just don’t. I met a guy at a web developer meetup event, and we went out a few times. During one date, I decided I would tell him about my BRCA mutation and mastectomy, and since he was a computer programmer and had previously told me to check out his personal website, I assumed it was safe to ask him if he’d seen mine. In my head, this is how I imagined the conversation would play out:

  • Rachel: “So, did you Google me and find my blog?”
  • Guy: “Why yes, yes I did.”
  • Rachel: “And what did you think?”
  • Guy: “I thought your decision was brave and understandable. You are very smart and wise. I am in awe of your courage and good looks. Also, your writing is hilarious and the simple WordPress.com layout on your blog is not at all outdated. I would like you to meet my rich great aunt who owns the largest book publisher in the world. Oh and would you like to get married?”
  • Rachel: “OH…um…okay…”

The actual conversation went a bit differently:

  • Rachel: “So, did you Google me and find my blog?”
  • Guy: (confused) “…No…”
  • Rachel: (not convinced) “Are you SURE?”
  • Guy: “…I didn’t see it…” (Probably thinking to himself: Oh my god what is her blog about? Is she a serial killer? Porn star? Cult member?)
  • Rachel: “OH…um…okay…well it’s about breast cancer and stuff…”
  • Guy: (Runs away, screaming.)

OK, so he didn’t really run away screaming, but the horrified look on his face made it pretty obvious that I had made a fatal boo boo. Since I write this blog and I’ve received press coverage for it, I assumed that the guy–being well versed in the ways of the Internet–had already run a Google search of my name and had come across the blog and articles about me. I thought it would be an easy way to cheat and deal with the subject without having to explain it myself.

I was obviously wrong. I still had to explain it all to him–the BRCA mutation, the family history of breast cancer, the mastectomy, the implants–but I had to do it while fighting to convince him that I wasn’t hiding something really bad. Oh well. Lesson learned. Instead of asking guys if they’ve Google stalked me, I now try another tactic:

DO look for ways for your date to indirectly mention it (BRCA mutation, mastectomy, whatever “it” is) without knowing…I call these “topic triggers.” A few weeks after the failed date (which was also my LAST with said guy…hmm, I wonder why?) I went out with another guy, who I had met online. In my dating profile, I mentioned that I blog (in addition to other exhilarating hobbies, such as scrapbooking, playing with my cat, and being a grandma). A fellow writer, he was curious about my blog.

I explained to him that my blog is about hereditary breast cancer and preventative surgeries, a seemingly niche topic with a surprisingly big audience online. I mentioned that yes, I had undergone a prophylactic mastectomy and now had breast implants, but most of the conversation was focused on the blog and the actual writing of it. It ended up being a very valuable conversation for me, because he helped me sort through some issues I’ve been having as a writer.

It baffles me that I'm still single.


With a witty OKCupid profile like this, it’s a wonder I’m still single.

This tactic of subtly sneaking topic triggers into the conversation has worked well for me multiple times. For example, I’ve used my visits to the Playboy Mansion as a segue to my BRCA mutation and mastectomy. Guys are usually so excited that I’ve met Hugh Hefner that they don’t get freaked out by the big scary mastectomy topic.

Now I realize that not all of you run your mouth on a WordPress blog or frequent the Playboy Mansion, but there are other ways to sneak in topic triggers. Do you volunteer with any high-risk breast cancer groups or participate in charity walks for breast cancer? Those are hobbies to discuss. Maybe you’ve taken some time off from work for your surgeries and you’re preparing to go back? Talk about your return to the office.

If you try this and it backfires horribly…well…sorry. 5-carat diamond engagement rings are not guaranteed with this method. But stay tuned for more DOs and DON’Ts, and maybe you’ll find a gem after all.

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9 thoughts on “Dating After a Mastectomy: DOs and DON’Ts

  1. This was hilarious, thanks for the good laugh. I think a lot of women are curious about dating post-mastectomy, I know I was really worried about it for a while. However, most guys actually aren’t freaked out by this – all they hear is “fake boobs,” and they get kind of excited. Usually, the most you have to worry about is a strange fascination. I once told a guy about my mastectomy on a first date through a “topic trigger,” but then he spent the rest of the time just staring at my chest like a creep. Let’s just say there wasn’t a second date. The worst that can happen is finding out right away that a guy isn’t right for you, and hey, that’s not so bad after all 🙂

    • Caitlin, thanks for commenting! It’s so nice to hear from you.

      Ditto on the “fake boobs” excitement. It is kind of a way of weeding out the bad ones.

      How’s school? If you’re going to be home for winter break I’d love to catch up.

  2. Hilarious! Happy to see you back blogging, Rachel. Some good strategies here. I really like the “topic triggers.” Looking forward to more! (Not that I need them, I had the wonderful luck to get diagnosed with breast cancer 2 years into my marriage and I was one of the fortunate ones… hubby stayed. Many women out there suffer marital discord and breakups while also dealing with BC. Double whammy on top of double whammy.

    PS I was sad to hear you and B. had broken up but happy to hear you’re out there having fun.

    PSS: Can’t beat the Playboy Mansion as Topic Trigger of the Year! 😉

  3. Hilarious indeed! If you saw a lot of hits from my blog…it was because I was kind of “blog stalking” you waiting for an update. YAY! 🙂 Thanks for the text back last night….I’m going to start the water plumping ASAP.

  4. This definitely made me laugh 😛 I had a mastectomy 3 weeks ago and my boyfriend has been very supportive of me thankfully (I’m 17, he’s 19). I used some of these topic triggers as well when telling people that I felt should know but I’m not close enough to to have told them of my whole BC journey from the beginning, it’s very useful! I really love your whole blog, it’s very honest as well which is brilliant

  5. It was refreshing to read your blog and it did make me smile , but on the sad side there are many women who’s mastectomys go wrong and are left with awful scares ( me as one of them ) and have been left with no breasts , I can only speak for my self but I hate my body yes hate , what with the scares and all the weight gain ( which I’m finding so hard to lose ) because of every thing going on with my body , too much to write here .
    Condifence is none existence self esteem gone but infront of people you put a front on ( sorry if there are spelling mistakes I’m not the best in queens English ) .
    What I have found is that once the cancer as been taken away you go through the long painful reconstruction then that doesn’t work you are left with scares and no one who truly understands how you feel , you are just another patient , it’s almost 6 years on for me and I’ve been to hell and back and I’m still waiting after failed reconstruction to have the other implant taken out , sorry I’m going to have to stop writing it’s upsetting me .

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