David and Patti Parrish

David and Patti Parrish are pictured in their home with their two labs, Mojo and Babe. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / February 13, 2014)

Trueheart4me was 5-foot-9, spiritual but not religious, and a social drinker, her Match.com profile read. She loved the water, traveling and a good belly laugh.

There was one more thing she labeled "full disclosure."

She had cancer.

"I was very lucky in that it was caught early and underwent surgery in early November that was a complete success," the profile read. "The cancer is now gone, however, I'll be in treatment for the next several months. … I expect to be finished up in early May, at which time I am also hoping my hair grows back!"

Patti Tolley had an aggressive breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, which had spread to her lymph nodes. She'd recently had a large tumor removed, along with her right breast and the nodes, and endured three of about 16 chemotherapy sessions.

Bored one night, the executive assistant at the technology company Ciena bought a one-month subscription to the online dating site. She typed out the profile, posted pre-diagnosis pictures of herself and hit enter.

Her friends joked about who might be attracted to a woman who was "bald as a cue ball" and missing a breast. But Tolley felt she was more than the sum of her missing parts and she might get a chuckle from some of the men's responses.

Several men responded as well as one woman, Jodi Kinney, who had uploaded a profile for a friend, a nice man without a computer or interest in Internet dating.

Kinney printed out profiles of several brunettes, which she knew her friend liked, and Tolley. Tolley was a blonde when she had a full mane, but Kinney just knew she was "the one" for David Parrish.

Parrish, who worked for Kinney at the Department of Defense, agreed to email, via Kinney, but Tolley initially put him off. She had some other dates lined up. But those didn't work out, and the two began emailing each other.

The first time they talked on the phone, he told her he had his own "full disclosure."

She never imagined he would say that he had had a double mastectomy five years before to treat his breast cancer. Only 1 percent of cases diagnosed are in men, though it is the most common kind of cancer diagnosed in women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I told her I was fine and she'd be fine too," Parrish said.

Their first date was a comfortable dinner and the Diane Keaton movie "Because I Said So." "It was like we'd known each other for 30 years," Tolley said.

Tolley was soon sick and tired from chemotherapy, and dates consisted of Parrish bringing chicken noodle soup to Tolley's Dundalk home.

When they did leave the house together, it often was Parrish escorting her to appointments, procedures and surgeries — including some that had nothing to do with cancer. He once got "a little loud" with a nurse he didn't feel was attentive enough when Tolley was nauseated. And any time she had stitches, he'd make her ride home in the back seat, believing she was safer if they were in an accident.

"When he's got your back, you know you are covered and in good hands," she said. "Bless his heart."

One night during her treatments ,she fell asleep on the sofa and her wig slid to the side, revealing to Parrish for the first time her hairless head. He said he couldn't take his eyes off her.

Dr. Kristen Fernandez, director of the Breast Center at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and Tolley's surgeon, said she shares Tolley's story often with other patients who tell her they are frightened of facing cancer alone.

Fernandez doesn't necessarily recommend signing up on a dating site, but she said patients should talk to someone. She points them to a hospital program that matches breast cancer survivors with the newly diagnosed, created with the help of a survivor and the Maryland affiliate of the Susan G. Komen foundation.