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Widowed at 25, cancer at 31, woman looks for love

By Kate Taylor
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(CNN) -- Cathy Bueti was widowed at the age of 25 when her husband was killed in a car accident. Seven years later, she says, "I finally started to feel like my life was coming back together, then I found the lump."


Cathy Bueti met her second husband, Lou, while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Her doctor thought she was too young to have cancer, but an operation found a lump bigger than anyone expected. Bueti got a breast cancer diagnosis at 31 and immediately underwent treatment.

Bueti had begun dating again after her husband's death. She decided that an important part of her struggle against cancer at such a young age would be to continue her pursuit of romance.

Her experiences looking for love while undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy were often heart-wrenching but ultimately rewarding. "Even though I would think, 'Oh, who will want me like this?' I look back on it now and I was just living, I just wanted to keep living."

Bueti read a couple of books by breast cancer survivors while she was undergoing treatment, but found that they were all written by married women. "Women who had already found that wonderful guy to help them through those hard times," she said.

"I wanted to write about this incredibly isolating experience as a single woman."

So Bueti wrote a book about the challenge of facing cancer as a young, single woman. "Breastless in the City" is based on her battle. Video Hear Bueti describe her battle with cancer »

No one is prepared to deal with cancer, but the challenge can be especially daunting for young, single women who must face the battle and the bills essentially alone. "You can't go back to your parents' house," Bueti said, "and your posse likely has no idea what you are going through."

As for dating, Bueti admits that she hit more than a few rough patches, But, she said, "I just stayed so hopeful, I wanted to find someone else. I wanted to go out with friends, to live life, to really figure out how to do this."

Bueti met her husband Lou at the end of her chemotherapy treatment. Her cancer is in remission, and she and Lou have been married for four years.

Maintaining a social and romantic life throughout her treatment helped Bueti uphold the mental strength that it takes to beat cancer. "Survival is all about living; focusing on the things that you love to do," she said. "It's the things that keep you grounded that are important."

Tammy Nattras also faced a breast cancer diagnosis as a single woman. She had just turned 40 when she learned that she had breast cancer, which doctors had not been able to spot on her mammograms. The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Video Watch more inspiring stories from breast cancer survivors »

Nattras faced stage four cancer that was wrapped around her chest wall. The prognosis was not good.

She opted for a high-risk treatment with very strong chemotherapy and radiation that Nattras said "was liable to have killed me." Photo View photos of more breast cancer survivor stories »

Through powerful radiation and persistent treatment, Nattras was able to eliminate her aggressive cancer, results she says few women in her condition are lucky enough to achieve.

While she is happy to have survived, Nattras explains that cancer recovery is much more than a relief and a joyful experience.

"It took me months to adjust to the cancer and the probability that I was dying. It also took me months to readjust to the idea that I was going to live."

Nattras explains that cancer survivors face the daunting challenge of returning to a life that they have put on hold for months. "I threw out three trash bags full of magazines that had piled up in my house during treatment. The tires on my car hadn't been rotated the whole time. I had to come back to relationships."

"People say 'you're fine,' but you're not fine. You're better, but you have no energy, and you have so much to take care of."

Lisa Rice also knows how difficult it can be to balance cancer and life. In 2005, at the age of 38, Rice learned she had breast cancer. At the same time, she was got another diagnosis. Rice was pregnant.

"It was hell, it was pure hell," says Rice, of balancing the simultaneous specter of death and the joy of nurturing new life. "And then it only got worse," as Rice searched for literature and insight into her situation and found nothing.

Rice eventually ended up at the Mayo Clinic, where she found a doctor who assured her she could undergo chemotherapy during her pregnancy with little risk to her baby.

Rice alternated between rounds of chemotherapy and ultrasound examinations of her baby. Rice finished chemotherapy and her daughter, Alexis, was born via C-section six weeks early so Rice could start radiation treatment.

Alexis was 4 pounds, 11 ounces when she was removed from the womb. "She was so very tiny," Rice says, "but she had 10 fingers and 10 toes. She was perfect."


Rice's cancer is now in remission and Alexis is a healthy 2-year-old. "She's my miracle baby," Rice said. "The fact that she survived all those toxins. Sometimes she will just look at me and I will break down and cry."

Rice, like Bueti and Nattras, hopes to be a source of strength and guidance for other women who undergo breast cancer treatment under rare circumstances. Like all survivors, Rice said, "It can be done. We are living proof." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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