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The night before my first mastectomy I stood naked in front of my dressing room mirror, hoping to remember my breasts. They weren’t big, but they were well-shaped. I was slim and fit, the poster girl for exercise and eating right. Even so, it didn’t keep me from getting breast cancer. That night I wasn’t scared as much as I was anxious to have the cancer out of my body.

Even though my husband changed my bandages and cleared my drainage tubes, after my surgery, I was nervous the first time we had sex.

I wore a black lace camisole because I wasn’t comfortable presenting myself in a sexual way without it. We didn’t have sex as much as we made love. It was sweet and welcomed by both of us, and I cried. I cried because we could both let everything go, and be in the moment.

We always had an electric sexual relationship, and that didn’t change, but something else happened. We shared something more intimate than sex: the possibility I might die. That, together with another mastectomy—this one preventative—and a total of 10 surgeries and eight rounds of chemo brought us even closer. I always thought he would outlive me, but he didn’t…

It’s not just him I miss. I miss sharing my life with someone. I don’t expect to find the same kind of love, but as a friend reminded me, I haven’t even been to lunch with anyone in six years. If truth be told, the process of finding someone new scares me.

Everyone warns me about the crazies out there, plus at what point in the dating process do you tell someone you’ve had cancer? Yes it was 12 years ago, but there’s no guarantee it won’t return. Twenty-five percent of husbands leave their wives after they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, and men weren’t raised to be caregivers, so I have to wonder how many guys won’t call me, again, for fear of getting more than they bargained for? And since most men think with their little brains, I’m guessing a lot of them don’t want a woman who’s breasts are scarred, uneven and anything but sexy, or they’re looking for arm candy who’ll make them feel younger.

Then there’s the problem of vaginal dryness and painful sex… I can’t take estrogen although my doctors now say topical vaginal estrogen would be okay. That’s not what my husband and I heard 12 years ago… Even so, I don’t want to begin using vaginal estrogen cream–that might trigger a long dormant cell–for just anybody.

I know what I want and don’t want from a relationship, and I know being alone is better than settling for just anybody. Several women I know have done that; smart independent women who settled—too quickly—for anybody. Now they’re miserable, but “uncoupling” at a certain age is emotionally and financially messy, so they stay.

On second thought… Instead of wondering who will want me, the question I should be asking is there anyone out there I’ll want?

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30 thoughts on “WHO WILL WANT ME?”

  1. Brennan, thank you for sharing your experience. I also made it through a double mastectomy with reconstruction. No part of that experience felt like a pink satin ribbon. The first having sex afterwards was scary, awkward until we melted into making love. We both cried because we are alive. I am so grateful to know that kind of love.

    Never settle for less!

    • You know exactly what I’m talking about! Thank you for understanding. I’m also sorry you’ve been through this terrible ordeal…. “Never settle for less.” Great advice, Irene. Thank you.

  2. Dear Brenda, Don’t give up because Senor Pretty Darn Will Adore you is out there and getting on that bike again will be fabulous. And yes, always listen to what you want and follow your heart. ❤️

  3. Brenda, you are so beautiful and vibrant that any guy would be blessed to be with you! If the Lord brings someone, he will adore you no matter what because he’ll love YOU! I can’t take estrogen, but coconut oil is the bomb! 😀

  4. I am a double mastectomy cancer survivor of 3 years. Terribly scared and breast implants ugly. I know from what you are going through. I have realized that a physical relationship is not that important. Friendship and fellowship is much more important. You can do this, please trust in the Lord and He will guide you and prepare the way ahead of you. I understand and hugs!

    • Dear Esther, I’m sorry you’ve experienced breast cancer, too. It’s terrifying and changes you in ways you could never have foreseen. You’ve quoted perhaps my favorite verse in the Bible: Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Like you, I’m leaning… I’m trusting. Sending you all my best wishes for health and happiness, Brenda

  5. Wishing you all the beauty and love life offers. This was brave to share with others. I’m in a relationship of 7 years with a widower who never thought he’d find love again.

  6. I just had a hysterectomy and have been having those inadequate feelings. I was terrified to make love to my husband and am still getting used to the changes. Loved this Brenda!

    • Rena, I had a total hysterectomy before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t given estrogen supplements and didn’t need any. That surgery was so easy, mentally and physically, and I never had problems making love after that. Scaring up my breasts was a different matter…. Have you heard Oprah’s quote about being naked and having sex, regardless of your circumstances? She said, “You’re the only naked woman in the room. He’s going to love you!” I think she’s right. Just go for it! My husband told me the sexiest thing about me was my attitude! xoxox, Brenda

  7. A brave and eloquent post. And you came to the absolutely right conclusion–it’s about finding someone YOU want, not worrying if someone will want you. Whoever it may end up being, he’ll be ever so lucky to have you in his life.

  8. Oh, my goodness, Brenda, this post made me cry! I remember, years ago, the topic of mastectomy came up on the show Dallas. (Remember that?) Barbara Bel Geddes was applauded for her portrayal of a woman facing that life-altering surgery. It was the first time I had even thought about it. Now, with friends who have survived-and thrived-it is a constant reminder. You are alive. You are beautiful. You deserve every happiness. Don’t be afraid of the ‘what if’s’. Seize the adventure! Cheering you on from the sidelines.

  9. Wow! That was very moving, Brenda. I’m so glad you had such a wonderful relationship with your husband and I hope, someday, you find another person who will treat you well and love every inch of you, your mind, and your soul.

    • Thank you, Jen. I’m glad you like it. I have a tendency to just write what’s on my mind. Sometimes I wonder if I’m too transparent, but it seems to speak to a lot of women, so I’ll continue.

  10. I have 27 surgical scars and am missing several bodies parts. I am not longer naturally anatomically correct. Sometimes I look at myself and feel like Frankenstein. However with age most of the time I feel strong and each scar has become a medal. I am becoming to feel more beautiful and more authentic, despite fake and missing parts, rather than less.

    • So well said, Beth! I’m sorry you’ve gone through that. I rather quickly became happy with my post surgical body when I was married. It’s just now when I even THINK about the possibility of unrobing for someone new that it bothers me. Being “more authentic,” now that I wouldn’t trade for the best body in the world.

  11. Brenda, thank you for being so honest about your journey and your feelings. You have inspired thousands with your courage and attitude, and I pray you feel the love and admiration of all you touch through your blog. God uses our darkest days to bring light to the world, and He is using you in a mighty way!

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