Loving a Black Lesbian Breast Cancer Survivor

My love and I wait at the hospital for her monthly injections.

Me and my love wait at the hospital for her monthly injections.

Written by Zamari Perri

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This means that people are asking me to donate to some breast cancer race, buy some pink ribbon products or asking me to go bra-free to raise awareness for breast cancer.

These pink October activities really piss me off because these things do so little to actually help the millions of women and their families dealing with breast cancer. They also doesn’t reflect the day-to-day reality of the women who have been through this horrible disease much less what it is like to love a survivor.

I met my partner after she completed 18 months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Even though she completed her major cancer treatments in 2013 and is in remission, the disease still impacts our lives every day.

In an effort to begin her healing process, she started taking yoga lessons and is now a fit yoga teacher and overall positive person. Because of this, people don’t realize that she still has limitations and concerns caused by cancer. Every day she takes medications to keep the cancer away, and every month she goes to the hospital for painful injections. She will be going to the hospital every month for the next two years.

As her partner, I see her struggle every single day. I see how the treatments cause her constant pain. I see that she can’t sleep. On top of that, my partner, a black lesbian butch/stud identified woman, endured a harrowing, double mastectomy and is now sensitive about her body where she previously wasn’t.

In the year that we’ve been together, I’ve learned many lessons about loving and supporting a breast cancer survivor. Here are just a few:

  1. After being out of work for two years, her finances have been devastated. My partner went from running her own successful business to now trying to rebuild what has been lost to cancer. That means she’s a lot more cautious about how she spends her money. She’s the type of woman who would rather spend money on skydiving or travel, than on things. I’ve learned to really appreciate the simple things and enjoy the care she puts into her gifts.
  2. She is still a woman in every way. While she may still be self-conscious about the scars left behind post surgery, she still wants to be desired. Still wants passionate love making. She still wants her femininity acknowledged.
  3. Team work makes the dream work. She’s a stud and I’m a femme, but in the end, we don’t focus on roles. We focus on having each other’s backs and supporting each other through this journey called life.
  4. Compassion, not punishment. When someone has been through fire, their time and attention is precious. Instead of giving her the silent treatment as “punishment,” my partner has taught me the value of compassion and communication. She has taught me that going through breast cancer is punishment enough and she doesn’t need it in her most intimate relationships. Instead, we try to remember how fortunate we are to have each other and regularly crack each other up.
  5. Every couple needs a tribe. I really have to recognize the women who carried my love through her worst days when she was bald, throwing up, weighed 98 pounds, scared and fighting for her life. Without them, I would have never known this incredible woman. These women continue to support her and support us every day.

In 2013 alone some 27,060 African American women developed breast cancer while 6,080 died from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. This means that someone you know may be going through treatments now, have survived the disease or have died from breast cancer. Please do more than wave a pink ribbon. Reach out to someone who is fighting cancer. Buy them groceries, do their laundry, be a listening ear or make a donation to an organization that directly supports patients and survivors.

Consider donating to the Cancer Support Foundation, a Maryland-based non-profit that gives 100 percent of all donations to cancer patients. They were super supportive in helping my partner get back on her feet.

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