Published on July 30, 2020
Is Dating off the Table for Breast Cancer Survivors?
This question is more complex than it was before cancer. I honestly don’t know what to think anymore. I’ve heard of cancer patients meeting “the one” during treatment or after. I’m boggled by that.
Who has the energy?
Who has the sex drive?
Who has the funds?
Who has the emotional capacity?
When dating pre-cancer in my 20’s and 30’s, I was constantly told by men that I needed to hurry up and have a kid before it's too late. Who knew being a single and childless woman would give men the false impression they could verbally judge me about it? I wasn’t going to have a child just because society determines my age and gender says that I should. I had made the decision years ago that I would not have any children of my own unless I was married. I had yet to meet someone I wanted to procreate with, so enough said.
After being diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer in September 2015, my body internally and externally would forever be changed. My body has suffered through 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 33 radiation treatments, and eight surgeries, including a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I had to be medically induced into menopause at 40 years old because my body is resistant to all the post-treatment medications to help prevent a recurrence. Dating was not even a remote thought once the cyclone of appointments that swept me up during active treatment.
Now that I have been NED (no evidence of disease) for four years, friends have asked when I will start dating again. What they don’t understand is I’m not the woman I once was. The motivation to date has vanished. It’s like a light switch was turned off once I was medically induced into menopause and infertile. Losing so many body parts all at once did something to me. I feel hollow. The only thing that makes me still feel like a woman are my tears and my menopausal mood swings. Fortunately, I don’t get hot flashes.
I hear all the time “the right man will love you at your worst.” Well, I think many of you will agree that the majority of men are visual creatures. Sure, I have a pretty face, but not a pretty body.
My body is scarred.
My body is stiff and awkward.
My body is numb in certain areas.
My body radiates and burns with pain.
My body is out of shape and struggling.
My body is utterly fatigued.
How can I date in such a low physical state? It was hard facing rejection when I was stick-thin in my 20’s and early 30’s. Any rejection now would destroy a fragile ego. I also realized that I can’t date a regular guy. I’ve nearly died. I’ve been through something life-shattering and life-altering.
How do I make small talk about trauma?
How do I hide the constant fatigue and fake energy I don’t have?
How do I not show the pain on my face if I move a certain way?
I don’t think lightly anymore. There is a definite heaviness that’s present and wasn’t there before cancer. Yes, I still laugh and joke around, but I’m aware I could become metastatic in an instant. I’ve stared the cancer beast in the face and had to face my own mortality.
Does that mean I should consider dating a guy who has or had cancer, so I won’t have to be self-conscious about my appearance or chronic pain and fatigue? Am I only able to relate to those in the cancer world? Wouldn’t that open another can of anxiety and fear if I fell in love and then became an unintentional caregiver until they died?
I don't like being single. I haven't found someone I mesh with at the right time, so it is what it is for what seems like forever. Beating cancer has just validated my feelings even more that I will not settle. I have, however, stopped looking. I know my focus now needs to be on healing, but it doesn't stop the loneliness. I’ve had my heart shattered once and deeply hurt once.
There is nothing wrong with dating myself and taking time for personal growth while focusing on my passions; yet, I remain open to new adventures.
This is my advice for other young cancer survivors:
- Make yourself the priority.
- Remain open to new adventures.
- There is nothing wrong with dating yourself.
- Focus on learning your body as it is now.
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