I was a superficial airhead before I got breast cancer.
All I cared about was what I looked like, where I went partying and whom I was dating. I didn’t care about anyone else; I was spoiled, and the world revolved around me.
I was never single, and never shed a tear when I ended yet another relationship. It was the thrill of falling in love…but as soon as it got meaningful, I bolted.
I cringe as I write this, knowing how self-centered I was, and how many men I hurt along my way.
But that person I was before cancer doesn’t feel like she was ever me.
That superficial, insecure, self-centered sex bomb may have had much better hair, and a great set of breasts, but I wouldn’t want to ever be her again.
My name is Saskia, I am 43 years old, I survived breast cancer and I am single.
I’m living proof that karma exists. There I was breaking hearts…and here I am, post-cancer, single and struggling to find a partner.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen— and boy did I fall with a thud.
I met one guy on a dating app, we chatted on WhatsApp, and I naively believed we’d made a connection. I then confided in him that I had breast cancer, which took a lot of courage and vulnerability. He messaged me the next day to tell me he had met someone else.
So where is the manual for being a breast cancer survivor and dating?
When am I supposed to tell a man I had one of my breasts cut off, and looked like Vin Diesel just a few years ago? How do I explain the numerous hot flashes I experience in an hour-long coffee date?
Are they going to think I am damaged goods? That I’m deformed?
Will anyone love me again?
Before cancer, I based my self-worth on my physical appearance. My hair defined me; untamed, curly, crazy; like Samson in the bible my curls were my power, and I was convinced my cleavage was what made me desired.
Who the hell was I now that cancer had robbed me of those things?
I lost my identity; I had no idea who I was anymore. Without those physical attributes, I felt like no one and nothing, like I disappeared overnight. One minute I was there, the next I got diagnosed with breast cancer and I was gone.
The hardest part wasn’t the cancer treatment; it was after the treatment was done. Somehow, I had to integrate myself back into the world, but with no idea of who I was. It was like cancer tore me down to my very core, stole every layer and left me naked with nothing.
But now I can see it was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.
Cancer contributed to my rebirth, my re-education of what beauty means and what is really matters in life.
Now, not only do I try every day to love, respect and nurture others…but also, I try to do the same to myself. I am no longer an airhead but profoundly spiritual. I meditate every morning and write a list of what I am grateful for every night before I go to sleep.
I no longer place so much importance on meaningless things like members clubs and designer clothes. I appreciate the tiny stuff I never use to even notice, like the beauty in a grey day, someone smiling on the tube, a glass of cold sparkling water or the peaceful breathing of my sleeping dog lying next to me as I write this.
The ‘old’ me would start a new relationship with sex and then get to know them after. The ‘new’ me has no intention of getting sexual with anyone until an emotional and spiritual connection has been made.
It took cancer for me to understand that emotional and spiritual bonds are the foundation of true human connection…and not good sex.
Listen, cancer is hell; I think we can all agree on that.
But cancer has also taught me so much about life and about myself.
Cancer taught me that vulnerability is not weakness, but great strength.
Cancer taught me that exterior beauty, without the depth of a kind soul, is merely decoration.
Cancer taught me there is so much more to life than just ‘things’ and ‘stuff’.
Cancer taught me to let go of the small stuff and the drama, and spend more of my time loving and forgiving both others and myself.
Cancer taught me that romantic love is not there to stroke my ego, and make me feel wanted — it’s about intimacy, honesty, vulnerability and growth.
I am far from perfect, but I like the Saskia I am today so much more than the party girl I was before the cancer.
I only hope that one day I will get the opportunity to fall in love with someone as the beautiful person I have become through battling and surviving breast cancer.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross