Love in the pink

2010-10-08 08:24

Elise Fernandez lost both breasts to cancer two years ago. Last year, she met the man of her dreams.

“I was diagnosed a month before my 35th birthday. I learned that I was going to lose my right breast completely. I chose to have the mastectomy as part of a decision that would prolong my life.”

According to Fernandez, one of her biggest fears was being confronted with a new relationship.

Marissa Weiss, an American ­oncologist, founder of an online ­resource and ­co-author of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, says: “Single women who want to become part of a relationship worry how breast cancer will ­affect their prospects and how and when to tell those prospective ­lovers about their condition.”

For Fernandez, the prospect of dating was daunting.

“I have been a single mum for 16 years,” she says. “My boyfriend, Brandon, proved to be a huge source of comfort, inspiration and support. He has shown me that even though I’ve lost my breast, I’m still a beautiful woman and that he loves me despite my scars.”

Unfortunately not all breast ­cancer survivors ride off into the sunset with their prince, and 27-year-old Claudia Zwane is one such. At just 23, Zwane was ­diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her boyfriend became a source of comfort. “He was a great ­support for me when I was ­diagnosed and went through chemotherapy. He was there for me and basically did everything right,” she says.

It was exactly this kind of fussy attention that many people think sufferers want in a relationship, that finally drove them apart.

“Sometimes people don’t understand that we don’t need pity and people constantly hovering and coddling us. Unfortunately, my boyfriend treated me more like a patient and an invalid,” she says.

According to Weiss, it’s not just the cancer survivor’s sexual life that gets disrupted by treatment. “There are the most obvious issues – the physical changes, exhaustion, nausea and pain from treatment, self-image, empty energy reserves, and the emotional chaos from the diagnosis itself. But there are also many other issues that women and their partners may not even know they’ll have to face,” says Weiss.

Zwane understands this very well – she and her ex even tried to give things a go for a second time but it just wouldn’t work.

“What I loved about him was that he never made me feel ­uncomfortable about undressing in front of him. But now I don’t know if I’ll be just as comfortable with someone else.”

Both Zwane and Fernandez ­admit to some initial worries after mastectomy. Zwane says: “I’m a naturally confident person. But to be honest, I’d think twice before undressing in front of anyone because of my scars. Plus my breasts are not the same size.”

Fernandez has found being in a relationship a source of comfort when it comes to her body image.

“When I was single, I worried about what man would want me. It was a difficult period but I learned to embrace my body.”

Weiss says studies have shown that the loss of a breast hardly matters to a partner when their loved one’s life is spared. “Most caring partners see their lovers as having many parts to love, and as being more than the sum of those parts.”

As for Zwane, she has thrown herself back into the market. “I don’t want to be with anyone who is not properly informed about breast cancer,” she insists.

»?From October 9 to 16, Zwane, Fernandez and other breast cancer survivors will make their Journey of Hope bike ride from Durban to Cape Town.  They will spread the message that the disease has a 95% survival rate if detected and treated early. Wish them well at uShaka ­Marine World on October 9 at 9am.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.