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Dating after Cancer

Posted 9/7/2015

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  We are at our tiny Maine cottage for a week and loving every moment--except when I sit down in front of the computer. If you have been reading this for a while, you are aware of the technological problems that haunt us here--compliments of satellite internet service combined with the hospital fire walls. This is to give you a reason, not an excuse, why my entries may be shorter this week. Although sometimes I get so frustrated that it seems reasonable to drive five miles to the library where the service is better.

  With that said, today's topic is dating after cancer. We all know that dating is never easy, is always stressful, ad brings a whole new set of issues for mid-life people who are completely healthy. Returning to the dating world after a divorce or a death is extremely challenging. People who have not been married and have been in and out of the dating world for years don't have an easy time either. Add cancer to the picture,, and everything is suddenly much more complicated.

  Some people express the feeling that they are "damaged goods" after cancer. Some people now have bodies that have been changed, not for the best, by their illness and treatment. Some women now have one or none or very changed breasts. Some men have problems with potency. Many people worry about self-image and confidence and concern around intimacy.Most chemotherapy treatments impact libido, and although people do recover, it may never be what it was.

  When do you say something about cancer? Surely that is not part of the initial conversation and does not need, I think, to be part of the first or maybe second meeting. I advise my patients to keep it private until/unless they think there might be a relationship possibility. Surely if you think you may be taking your clothes off in front of this person, you need to say something first. And that saying something first is more about honesty and trust than it is about body changes.

  Very important points to remember: Cancer is one part, a big part perhaps, but one part, of who you are. Second, no one gets to be 40 or 50 or 60 without life experiences and some baggage. Our scars are more obvious than some others, but everyone has them. And third, no one at 40 or 50 or 60 has the body he or she had before. Everyone is going to be self-conscious and wishing for what was. Loving someone, taking the chance with someone, means accepting and loving what is: scars or missing parts or flabby arms or heavier waists. Those things, too, are just a small part of a person.

  From Cure Today: For Survivors of Cancer, Finding Love Involves an Extra Hurdle

Tia Jones was 28 and stuck in a relationship headed nowhere when she learned that she had stage 2 colon cancer.
“That pretty much did us in as a couple,” says the Wichita, Kan., resident. “At first, I was OK being single. I had enough to manage with staying alive.”
But eventually, Jones felt ready to dip her toe back into the dating pool. “I was very nervous. I went from being a carefree, fun-loving person to being a woman with a serious diagnosis of cancer — and an unsexy cancer at that! Of course, I wondered who would want to date me.”
Dating is complicated. Cancer is complicated. The two together don’t exacty make for easy-breezy, get-to-know- one-another-over-dinner-and-drinks conversation. “Cancer makes you reassess and challenge every perception you have in life. It shakes up and undermines your selfworth,” says Erin Nau,
counseling and education coordinator for the New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.
“You’re not the same person you were before cancer, and that adds a different dimension to what you want from a partner and out of life.”
It’s hard to open yourself to dating rejection when you’re already feeling so
fragile from a life-altering cancer diagnosis. But many dating variables remain
the same regardless of whether the word “cancer” is ever uttered. “The goal of
any first date should be to get to know each other and see if there’s enough of a
connection to progress to a second date,” says Nau. Every subsequent date is
another opportunity to learn more about each other. When the time comes to
share more intimate details, “the cancer bomb,” as Jones calls it, may scare off a
few suitors. “But if somebody is going to run, you’re better off knowing about it
before you invest a lot of time in that person,” Jones says.

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