Pam Cromwell's life changed forever when, at 29, her doctor told her that the recently found lump in her breast was indeed cancer.
Her diagnosis came with a six-month life expectancy.
Six years later, Cromwell stands tall. Her job as a business analyst is thriving, she kickboxes, aspires to travel, and loves spending time with her boyfriend.
She also has metastatic breast cancer.
"Cancer does not define me," said Cromwell, 35, who lives in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. "It's just a part of who I am."
The self-described "new face of cancer," Cromwell is redefining what it means to be a young person living with a potentially terminal diagnosis. In fact, she's out to eliminate the notion that cancer patients can't have a full life.
Cromwell embraced this point wholeheartedly when it came to her dating life. At one time, she was navigating through a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and the dating scene.
Cromwell was met with a mix of reactions from potential suitors, many of whom shied away after learning her diagnosis early on. That all changed in June when she started dating James Boykin. This time, she chose to wait until the third date to share her diagnosis.
"We'd gone out a few times and I'd already seen what a cool, healthy, fun person she was. She seemed totally normal to me," said Boykin, 34, adding that their relationship is no different than anyone else's. "It's not the end of the world for her. It's just a condition we live with," he said. "When I look at Pam, I don't see breast cancer."
How to date with cancer
Dating is hard enough. Here are Pam's tips for navigating the dating scene with breast cancer:
Take it slow: Get to know the person without rushing the relationship.
Know what you want: Don't let your diagnosis lower your expectations.
Communicate: Try to be as open and honest as you can.
Don't over analyze: If a relationship doesn't work out, don't fixate over why. Instead try to learn from it.
Be confident and patient: Have faith that the right person will come along when the timing is right.