“You have stage III breast cancer” are so not the words you expect to hear at 29 years old. I heard them five days after a Tinder date told me he felt a lump in my left boob, four days after I’d had a biopsy done on said boob, and one day after my friends and I joked about the odds of me actually getting cancer in a year like 2020.
Apparently, for me, living through a global pandemic could get much worse.
But let me back up a bit. Before my diagnosis, I had just ended a six-year relationship and did what any newly single person would do: I got on the dating apps. Sam had “coffee guy” written in his bio, so he was an obvious Swipe Right.
For our first date, we went to a bunch of breweries and shared a lil smooch at the end of the night. Neither of us wanted anything serious, but I was getting zero fuckboi vibes; he made me feel secure, comfortable, confident, all the things. We decided to see each other again.
One night, as we were lying in bed, Sam started rubbing his hands all over my tits just for the hell of it. (For any of you who have dated boob guys, you know this is something that just happens—regardless of whether or not it leads to anything sexual.)
“Have you ever had this lump checked out?” he asked. I immediately went into full-on defense mode. “No, that’s just my boob,” I said, feeling the spot for myself. I mean, breasts are supposed to be lumpy at my age…right? We moved on, but I went to the doctor the next day anyway.
I got scheduled for an ultrasound (fun fact: mammograms aren’t actually that great at detecting breast cancer in women under 40, since we tend to have denser breast tissue), and that’s how they found the five-centimeter-wide mass.
When the test came back, I literally thought, Well, fuck. How was I going to tell people? Talking about it would make it real, and I wasn’t ready for it to be.
I decided my first move would be to break things off with Sam. I didn’t want to burden him with a bald-headed chick who would be tired, sick, and losing her fingernails. When I tried, though, he basically said, “Hi, no, not happening.” His exact words: “If I didn’t think I could do this, I’d say so. But let’s give it a go; let’s try to fight this together.” So that’s what we did.
Since cancer treatment can totally fuck up your fertility, I started IVF treatment in June, and then from July to November, I went through chemotherapy.
Sam, the guy who was supposed to be around for “WYD?” texts only, was with me through it all. He stroked my bald head before bed so I could sleep at night, and when I vomited all over my walls because I couldn’t make it to the toilet in time, he cleaned it up without saying a word.
When chemo was finally over, I said RIP to my left boob before the people in PPE chopped it off. (Yes, this was a mastectomy, not a plot in American Horror Story.) They also did a full lymph node removal.
I said to Sam, “Of course I got breast cancer and had to get rid of a tit when I’m dating a boob guy.” His response: “Don’t worry, I’m a boob guy, not a boobs guy.”
Radiation started at the end of March 2021, and I did that every day for five weeks straight until I was finally cancer-free. Now I’m awaiting reconstructive surgery, and I’ll also be on hormone therapy for the next 10 years.
“Breasts are supposed to be lumpy at my age…right?”
Meanwhile…Sam and I just moved in together—and I realize that had he not had the courage to say anything about the lump he felt, I might not be here today.
In a way, what he did should be the bare minimum (because if you feel something in a boob, a testicle, really anywhere on someone’s body, you must tell that person), but that likely saved my life. Mainly because I probably wouldn’t have found the lump myself: I had never done a proper breast self-exam before nor did I know how to.
So yes, the man who still affectionately calls me “Lumpy” and gives me monthly “Sammograms” to check things out is pretty amazing. He has quite literally become my lifeline. And perhaps our story proves there is more to dating apps than just fishing pics and The Office references. Like, a lot more.
Sources: Ob-gyns Kimberly Langdon, MD, and Heather Irobunda, MD.
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