Dating After Cancer: The Good, The Bad, and the Hilarious

Hello Lovely you!

As I do most mornings, I am sitting here sipping my tea, thinking about all the things in my life I am grateful for. I recommend you start and end each day doing this as well!

Anyway, some of the usual suspects I am always grateful for are my sweet fur baby and my man Dave. Dave and I have been together now for many years and God willing we will be together for many more. And that brings up something else I am grateful for… not having to date anymore!

Dating is hard enough for most people, but for cancer survivors, it can be terrifying. You have completely changed as a person. In many ways this is good. You value each and every second of every day and you respect your interactions with others. You don’t sweat the small stuff and can laugh easily.

But some of your changes may add to dating challenges. For example, there’s also the new side of you that doesn’t tolerate fools lightly, is more outspoken (being an advocate for your own health and dealing with teams of doctors and specialists will do that to a person), and can’t tolerate small talk.

And let’s not forget the possible physical changes you may be dealing with. It’s hard enough to get your hair just right or try to hide that adult acne that HAD to pop up right before your first date. But for many cancer survivors, there’s also the scars, missing limbs, and ports that must be dealt with and the questions that will naturally be asked. If not by words at least by the other person’s eyes as they try to make it look like they’re not staring even though they are clearly starting over the chips and salsa.

And feeling comfortable enough for sexual intimacy after your body has been put through Armageddon? Please!

Even though dating can be challenging and scary and frustrating and awkward during and after cancer treatments, making new and profound connections will not only add joy to your life, but studies have concluded that love is actually good for our health. So if you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to put yourself out there and bring new love into your life.

Dating Tips for Cancer Survivors

I’ve been where you are and I know dating post-cancer is challenging, so here is some advice from me to you:

Get Yourself in the Right Head Space

You’ve got to be mentally and emotionally ready to meet new people. This means you’ve got to feel good about yourself and you’ve got to feel good about yourself as a lover and partner specifically. Sure, you feel pretty awesome to be alive and proud that you handled your cancer journey with as much grace as you could muster.

But feeling good about yourself as a lover and partner may feel challenging right now. You may still have emotional ups and downs. Your libido may still be M.I.A. You may still be experiencing some PTSD, which is totally common for cancer survivors.
Take some time to reflect on everything about you that makes you amazing. What qualities have you always had that are exceptional? What qualities did your cancer journey give you that are positive ones? What gifts do you possess that you give others? What makes you strong?

You’re a great catch, battle scars and all. As soon as you remember that, you’ll be ready to throw on your best outfit and meet Mr. or Ms. Could-Be Right.
Sharing You Cancer Experience: How and When?

“Hi, it’s nice to finally meet you in person and I just spent the past year and a half battling breast cancer and had a double mastectomy.”
Probably not the best opening line. You’ll have to feel your way through your new relationships to get a sense of when and how to share your story. But here’s some advice…
Take a little time to get to know a person first before completely opening up. There’s no reason to lay your cancer cards on the table that first date when you don’t know if the other person is someone you’re really interested in.

After you’ve seen this person a few times and you know you are definitely interested in taking the relationship further, then consider opening up and telling them about your cancer. And be honest about what this really means as far as being in a relationship with you. They may have questions about the possibility of recurrence, heck, you have that question, too. Share any physical limitations you may be experiencing, either temporary or permanent, from treatments. If this is someone you’re really connecting with and they are open to what you have so far shared with them, then you may want to share any vulnerabilities and insecurities you are feeling as far as sexual intimacy.

The good thing is, open communication can deepen trust and help you be able to feel more intimate with others. Take your time, feel your way, and share your story when it feels right to you.
Remember, Your Cancer Journey is Only One Part of You
You’ve just spent the past however many months or years battling cancer. Your friends and loved ones have treated you differently because you were battling cancer. You had doctors appointments way more than a “normal” person because you were battling cancer. You couldn’t do many things because you had cancer.

You were scared and depressed and anxious and sad because you had cancer.
The minute you heard those words “you have cancer,” your entire world changed and you became a warrior fighting to stay alive, fighting to be heard, fighting to just feel good enough to have an okay day. After your journey, it’s hard to put down your armor and go back to being a “normal” person. And as I said before, you are forever changed from your experience. You can’t face death and NOT be changed.
But it’s also important to remember that your cancer journey is only one part of you and your life story.

Everyone carries their own unique baggage with them, but they are not that baggage.
It’s important that you reconnect with other parts of you so that you are a completely whole person and not “just” a cancer survivor. Your cancer has given you a new perspective on life, it has given you strength and courage that many people will never know. But it doesn’t define you. You are more than the treatments and bleak nights of being sick and losing your hair and and and… Get in touch with all of you so you have even more to give those people in your life.

Have Fun!

Don’t forget to have fun. You know all-too-well life is short, way too short to be serious all of the time, so see dating as your next exciting adventure.

Don’t think of dating as dating. Think of it as inviting love into your life.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
~ Charles M. Schulz

Sending Love and Light…

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