A New Diagnosis. An Unexpected Love Story.
By BCRF | February 13, 2018
By BCRF | February 13, 2018
Four years ago, Josie Antoine was preparing for a first date in Central Park. She was nervous. The thought of a romantic stroll was daunting – but not for the reasons anyone would expect.
“I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through the date,” she said.
A tax lawyer based in New York, Antoine wasn’t tired from a long workweek. Days earlier, she had her first chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. It was a diagnosis she received within a week of her fortieth birthday. After undergoing a double mastectomy, a month later she was put on an aggressive chemotherapy regimen known as AC-T.
This new reality was hard to handle. The diagnosis led to the end of a recent relationship. With the uncertainty of what lay before her, Antoine was hesitant to bring anyone new into her life.
“I remember telling my aunt when she mentioned a future husband, ‘Who’s going to want this?’” Antoine said.
But then came that date in Central Park with a man named Pablo. The pair hit it off. While they met on Match.com, they discovered they crossed paths earlier in life when they attended the same high school in Brooklyn.
“That shared experience produced a quick connection,” she said.
By their second date, Antoine decided to tell him about her diagnosis and treatment.
“In past relationships, in the early months, I worked to make sure I was the best version of myself,” Antoine said. Now, her approach had to change.
“There wasn’t going to be any putting on the best version of myself as I went through chemo,” she said. “I didn’t have the mental or physical energy for it. I was just trying to get through the day or sometimes, the hour.”
Towards the end of dinner on their second date, Antoine broke the news to Pablo. To her surprise, he took the diagnosis well.
“I was comfortable with his reaction – it was what I needed,” she said. “He was compassionate, sympathetic, genuine and interested in my journey.”
Soon they became a team, tackling her side effects together.
“He was my treatment chauffeur, he cooked healthy and tasty meals for me every day and encouraged me to be his sous chef,” Antoine said. They went on neighborhood strolls, even when Antoine could only handle a couple blocks.
When she lost her hair, Antoine decided to own her look with a scarf – and Pablo embraced it.
“He made me feel beautiful,” she said.
Treatment had its fair share of scares too. While receiving Taxol, Antoine suffered from severe neuropathy that led to a 911-call and emergency room visit. Pablo was with her during the entire ordeal.
“He was by my side in the emergency room when I was crying because I was in so much pain,” she said. “We had been dating for only three months.”
Throughout this time, the couple learned that open communication was key.
“Pablo and I talked even when it was super uncomfortable,” Antoine said.
She remembers bringing up the topic of infertility – a side effect some women experience after receiving chemotherapy.
“As I started to discuss this side effect with him, he told me that yes, he already knew. He had done his research and was in this relationship with his eyes wide open,” Antoine said.
Antoine was not only comforted by Pablo’s reaction but she also grew confident in their love because of it.
“I remember feeling and understanding that I could really be at my most vulnerable and we were going to be okay,” Antoine said.
They turned out better than okay. Today Antoine is in remission – and last year they got married.
While Antoine’s treatment is behind them, the couple still draws on the lessons they learned during this tough time.
“The openness between us continues to evolve,” she said. “We’ve both grown stronger as individuals and as a couple because of it.”
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