I believe that when we realize the unconditional love of God that’s within us, it’s easier for us to love ourselves -- and to properly demonstrate it to others. I’ve had a mastectomy and two reconstructive surgeries during my 20-year breast cancer journey; the scars are indeed pronounced. Yet I have come to embrace my beautifully flawed body because I realize that self-love cannot be predicated on what I see.
As I’m certain other breast cancer survivors can attest to, we often have to be creative in choosing hairstyles and the clothing that we wear so we feel comfortable navigating our new normal (whatever that means). But ultimately, we’re concerned about our lives being saved and the quality of it.
For some who are single while they are going through treatment, it may be scary to think about dating during one of the most difficult times of your life. But I implore you to not shy away from the possibilities. I am very glad that I saw beyond my disease and took a chance on love when I met my husband, Malcolm, just a couple of years after I was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV breast cancer.
In 2012, Malcolm and I connected through Facebook messenger. He reached out to me through a mutual friend because he liked my inspirational posts. We then realized that we had a lot in common. He knew several people from my church, and he also attended services there too, but at a different time than me. He was raising three sons and I was raising my daughter.
After speaking on the phone several times, we realized that we had something much deeper in common: breast cancer. Unfortunately, his ex succumbed to the disease some years ago. This shocked me and gave me pause. Surprisingly, it didn’t stop him from pursuing me romantically despite the precarious nature of my own disease. Some might call it counter-intuitive or plain old crazy, but I believe that every encounter and connection is divine.
On the humid August evening that Malcolm and I finally decided to meet in person, I didn’t have a lot of options for clothing to wear. It was too hot for me to wear a top with sleeves, so I settled on a navy-blue bandeau jersey dress. It wouldn’t conceal the bulging chemo port in the inner part of my right arm, but I didn’t want to overthink it. I hoped he’d just take me as I was. When the doorbell rang, I opened it to Malcolm’s smile and a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.
During the car ride, as we chatted, I kept stealing little glances at his side profile. Because my heart felt so tender, I wanted to kiss him. We had a great date as we went to the movies, dinner, and then walked the waterfront. When we returned to my place, he walked me to the front door. I thanked him for a lovely night. We finally kissed and I felt hopeful as he drove away.
Eight years later, Malcolm watched me walk down the church aisle where I joined him in matrimony. It was 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic as the backdrop, and our love for each other was tested beyond measure. Malcom’s mother passed away from the disease, he became ill from it, and I lost several loved ones. It was a very trying time, but love prevailed.
We were still grieving while clinging to each other. We had discussed getting married in the past but decided that after everything we had endured, it was time to officially blend our families. It was no easy feat, but we planned the wedding in 6 weeks, and with so many restrictions we had to be creative. We were only allowed to have 25 people at the church and the outdoor reception.
In this world where so much seems to be so superficial, I felt so blessed as I walked down the aisle to meet the man who wasn’t afraid to love me beyond my flaws. For any person dealing with breast cancer or another serious illness, don’t be afraid of pursuing love while you’re going through the storm. It makes it sweeter when you’re loved from the inside out.
To connect with other breast cancer survivors, join our Breast Cancer Facebook Support Group.
Photo Credit: digitalskillet / iStock via Getty Images Plus
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