Dating With, or After, Breast Cancer
- Katherine Crowson, from Edinburgh, Scotland, was 29 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and she didn’t want her disease to stop her from dating.
- Katherine moved into an apartment with two men, one of whom was 30-year-old Angus MacPhail. Both Katherine and Angus were on the same dating app, and after Katherine toured the apartment and agreed to move in, Angus liked one of her photos on the app, and shortly after they started dating.
- Dating and being intimate with someone after you’ve undergone treatment for cancer can be really scary. A lot of survivors have told us that they needed to take some time to feel like themselves again before getting back out there.
“I was Googling at 3 a.m. when I found a journal article,” she told BBC News. “I remember seeing lots of responses from people saying they wouldn’t mind dating someone who had had cancer, but they would prefer for them to have finished treatment.”Read More
In March 2020, Katherine was diagnosed with stage 3 HER-2 positive and hormone negative breast cancer. She had discovered a lump in her armpit, and when she went to the doctor about it, her doctor discovered an even bigger lump in her breast.
She began chemotherapy and radiation treatment shortly after her diagnosis, and after she read that article online at 3 a.m., she decided to postpone her dating efforts.
But a few weeks later, she downloaded a dating app. She was conflicted about what photos to post, as she had lost her hair from treatment, but was wearing long, blonde wigs.
“I had been wearing long, blonde wigs but normally I had long brown hair,” Katherine, now 32, told BBC. “The long hair was not who I currently was but I didn’t want cancer to be my defining feature either by using the short hair pictures.”
Once the photo situation was figured out, her next dilemma was deciding whether to disclose that she had cancer on her dating profile. She opted against it, which she admitted felt “a bit deceitful.”
However, once she moved from messaging people outside of the dating app, she would tell him she had cancer.
“I told them they could pull out and just to stop texting me if me having cancer was a problem for them,” she said, “but nobody was upset by it. It’s all about how you present yourself.”
She hadn’t had any luck finding a long-term partner on dating apps, but once she decided to move out of her father’s house in the spring of 2021, love found her in the most unexpected way.
Katherine moved into an apartment with two men, one of whom was 30-year-old Angus MacPhail. Both Katherine and Angus were on the same dating app at the time, and after Katherine toured the apartment and agreed to move in, Angus liked one of her photos on the app, not knowing it was her!
“I was mortified and wanted the ground to swallow me up,” Angus told BBC. “When she viewed the flat, she had short hair and a mask on, but in the pictures she had long hair.”
Katherine, who finished chemotherapy treatment the September before, agreed to go out with Angus when he asked.
“Katherine and I have a very open communication, we speak a lot, we became best friends and then started dating,” Angus said. “My parents and sister have had cancer. It affects everyone, so it was never an issue for me when we started dating.”
“It’s been hard to help her through cancer but it’s entirely worth it,” he added.
Katherine is continuing with preventative treatment, which includes monthly injections and six monthly infusions to strengthen her bones. She’s also frozen her eggs in hopes of having children of her own one day.
While she’s not out of the woods yet, she’s embracing her newfound outlook on life and dating.
“Coming out of cancer treatment makes you feel that you need to embrace life and live life to the fullest,” she said. “Because I’ve had cancer and spent 18 months on cancer treatment, I want to say ‘yes’ to everything.”
And that includes going on a date with her new roommate!
Dating With, or After, Breast Cancer
Dating and being intimate with someone after you’ve undergone treatment for cancer can be really scary. A lot of survivors have told us that they needed to take some time to feel like themselves again before getting back out there.
Fellow breast cancer survivor and author Laura Morton previously told SurvivorNet that she’s really adamant about being honest with people she’s dating when it comes to what she’s been through.
“It is a part of who I am … but it’s by no means who I am,” Laura said. “It’s not anything that I feel any shame about. It’s nothing that I feel any regrets about. If anything I need them to know I don’t have a lot of feeling there … it doesn’t do much for me if you’re playing with my boobs.”
Aside from the honesty, Laura said it’s important — if you’re close to anyone who has been through cancer — to acknowledge that they’ve experienced this huge, life-altering battle.
And Laura had some frank advice for anyone who finds themselves dating someone who lacks that empathy: “If you’re with someone who has an issue with it … quite frankly, why are you with them? Show them the door … fast.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff reports