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by Abigail Van Buren

Mastectomy Fails to Chase Man From New Wife's Side

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to "Anonymous in Wisconsin" (Aug. 11), the cancer survivor whose husband has lost interest in her after her double mastectomy. I am outraged by his insensitivity and lack of love. She says she doesn't want to leave him. My question to her is, why not? She deserves better.

I am a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with breast cancer seven months after I was married. Prior to my decision to have a radical mastectomy, I offered my husband the chance to leave. (After all, one doesn't expect "worse" to come so soon after the wedding.) The prospect of children, which we had discussed and was important to us, was uncertain because of my subsequent chemotherapy. My husband didn't hesitate. He said, "You would not leave me. We will adopt."

On our first wedding anniversary I was bald, and he treated me to a beautiful, romantic getaway. Although I did have reconstruction, it was a long process. He was supportive from day one.

Fifteen years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. I had another radical mastectomy followed by chemo and reconstruction. Abby, my husband again made me feel beautiful even when I didn't. There are men out there who define a woman not by the size of her breasts, but by the beauty of her heart. -- SURVIVOR IN NATICK, MASS.

DEAR SURVIVOR: I want to thank you and the many breast cancer survivors who wrote me -- and their supportive spouses -- for telling me your personal stories. Readers, I am printing this to remind you that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I had to write to "Anonymous." I kept hoping my husband of 20 years would change his mind and accept my new body. However, because he could not, I chose to divorce him and it liberated me.

At first, I felt that if the one person who was supposed to care couldn't look at me, then no other man would either. I was wrong. After five years of dating, I never once encountered a man who was as insensitive as my husband had been. I have now found the man of my dreams.

In some respects, my "medical adventures," as I refer to them, were the best thing that ever happened. They enabled me to see my ex for who he really was, and find a man who truly is a man. -- GOT A NEW SET AND A NEW LIFE

DEAR ABBY: Breast cancer doesn't ruin your life unless you let it.

I am 66 years old. When I was in high school, my mom had a breast removed. My parents and I just took it in stride. It didn't define us. Dad adored her.

Mom would come in dressed up for whatever reason and ask, "Am I even?" because the "falsies" then were made of foam and were lightweight. She kept the vacation money pinned to it. She made a few new friends faint when she used it as a pin cushion. Dad died at 90, and Mom died the following year.

Mom could have helped "Anonymous." She would have cut her a slice of homemade pie, poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the table and just talked to her. Women need other women. "Anonymous" should find a friend who has gone through the same thing and talk and pray. She needs both. -- EARLENE IN TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: My wife went through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, then radiation. During that time she went to work every day, except when she had a treatment.

Of course, I have a visual reminder of what she went through when we share an intimate moment, but she has had to deal with it every day of her life since then. When I see her scar, I think about how strong she was going through that difficult period of time. Rather than drive us apart, it has brought us closer together than I ever thought possible. -- HUSBAND OF A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR

Read more in: Marriage & Divorce | Sex & Gender | Health & Safety

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