Dating After Cancer
- While it’s normal to feel nervous about dating in general, jumping in during or after cancer can be particularly nerve-racking as you wonder how people may react to your “club” status.
- One of the most important things to determine before getting back out there is if you’re ready, and if you’re not? It’s okay to just have fun. But be honest, as there is another person’s feelings to think of in the equation.
- Hopefully your date will be supportive when they learn what you’ve gone through, and if they’re not, consider yourself lucky that you found this out early on. Writer and actress Jill Kargman says that cancer is a great way to “weed out the sh*theads” when it comes to relationships. If they don’t have the emotional capacity for it, then that’s okay too, but just know that you’re better off.
If you are living with breast cancer—or have battled the disease —and have a supportive partner, that’s beautiful. But for the people who quickly found out their partner couldn’t handle the weight of their health situation, or for the single people in recovery, this post is for you.Read More
Here are 5 tips on how to navigate the singles scene after cancer for all the survivors out there!
1. Decide if you’re ready
Whether you are fresh off the “I just beat cancer” boat, or you are adjusting to having to live with cancer longterm, the most important thing is to assess if you’re ready to explore a romantic relationship with someone.
Some people may feel they’re ready, then quickly realize they’re not.
As NYC-based writer actress Jill Kargman says, cancer can help weed out the “sh*theads.”
“When you get cancer, it’s a really great way to tell if your partner is the love of your life, or a s***head, Jill tells SurvivorNet.
“A lot of people at middle age are kind of at a crossroads waiting for their kids to fly the coop, and I think if you’re with someone who is not supportive [during cancer], or kind of emotionally checked out, or doesn’t tell you you’re still beautiful … this might not be your person.”
Related: Breast Cancer Survivor Hoda Kotb is ‘Treasuring Being Single’ After Split from Financier Fiancé, is ‘Tiptoeing’ In Her Dating Life
Just like every cancer battle is different, every person is different and there is no right answer for this. Just don’t push yourself. If it happens organically, then just go with it and see how it feels. But, if you don’t feel you are physically and emotionally able to dive in fully, don’t be afraid to table the dating life for a bit or put the brakes on something that doesn’t seem to be the right timing for you.
Equally as important in your situation is honesty.
2. Be honest
I personally think it is important to be honest with a potential new partner on what you have been going through, but again, that’s up for you to decide. You have a right to be as private with your news as you want, but before you decide, consider the other person in the situation as well.
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While it may not be the best to blurt it all out on date one, if you feel some chemistry and there is a possibility to get serious with this person, they do have a right to know what they are getting into.
Related: Survivor Sheryl Crow: ‘My Breast Cancer Diagnosis Stopped Me From Dating Narcissists’
The truth is, many women—and men—are fearful to tell a potential suitor that they have/have had cancer, because they don’t want to scare the person off. I know a friend who was warned to not get involved with a breast cancer survivor (in case it came back), which is sad, but unfortunately, that is sometimes the reality of what survivors go through.
Related: ‘Strong in Cancer:’ Navigating New Relationships While Fighting Cancer Is Challenging
Breast cancer survivor and author Laura Morton says that she’s really adamant about being honest with people she’s dating when it comes to what she’s been through.
“It is a part of who I am … but it’s by no means who I am,” Laura tells us. “It’s not anything that I feel any shame about. It’s nothing that I feel any regrets about. If anything I need them to know I don’t have a lot of feeling there … it doesn’t do much for me if you’re playing with my boobs.”
Related: Caitlin Kiernan Gets Intimate About Dating After a Mastectomy
Aside from the honesty, Laura says it’s important to acknowledge that you’ve experienced this huge, life-altering battle. And she has some blunt advice for anyone who finds themselves dating someone who lacks that empathy. “If you’re with someone who has an issue with it … quite frankly, why are you with them? Show them the door … fast.”
The good news is, sharing your health situation early with someone can really help you assess what that person is like, based on how they handle your full disclosure. If they act uncomfortable about it, and if it does turn them away, then as Laura says, let them go! You’re better off sparing yourself from more heartache down the road.
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However, chances are, they will listen to you, hopefully try their best to understand, show compassion, and maybe even show it doesn’t phase them.
Related: This 32-Year-Old Woman Decided Breast Cancer Wasn’t Going to Stop Her From Dating. She Found Love in the Most Unexpected Way
So, if you are interested in someone, try not to be scared and just go for it!
Again, it’s up to you to determine how much you want to tell. Not immediately sharing an early stage cancer battle you went through 20 years ago is one thing, but dating in your 20s, 30s, or 40s and not disclosing that you may have difficulty getting pregnant due to cancer treatment is obviously a different story. You’ll know what feels right.
3. It’s okay to just have fun!
Chances are, you may not be looking for anything serious, and there are many others out there who be on the exact same page. Again, this boils down to honesty, but feel free to tell your date that you aren’t looking for anything serious. Whether you’ve been set up through a friend, or you’re on one of the dating apps, it’s usually somewhat easy to determine whether or not someone wants to just keep things casual.
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And who knows, maybe it can evolve into something else, but taking that pressure off of yourself and your “friend” may be the best way to go, depending on your situation. Then you can enjoy companionship, a night out, and a little affection or attention after all you have been through definitely doesn’t hurt!
Bottom line, more and more people are recognizing that they do not need a partner in order to be happy, so it is perfectly alright to feel content with being single.
Just keep the communication open; you deserve to go out and have a laugh!
4. Treat yourself
Many women understandably suffer from body image insecurities, not to mention other aspects of physical and mental aftermath. After all, you’ve gone (or are going) through a war of sorts—to say the least.
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Not only is it important to pamper yourself here and there to lift your spirits, but if you’ve decided to put yourself out there and really do this, do not hesitate to splurge splurge splurge to put a little more bounce in your step!
Related: Body Image, Sex, and Adjusting to a New Normal After Cancer Treatment
Whether it’s getting a fresh hair cut or buying a new wig, dress, lingerie or lipstick, do not even think twice about pampering yourself. There is nothing wrong with boosting your own spirits with something new, which can spark some extra needed confidence as you hit the town for a nice dinner somewhere, or even just to perk yourself up at home.
5. It’s okay to be vulnerable
So, maybe you’ve met a new person and things are starting to get serious. You’ve gotten through the whole “C” word conversation, but what happens if you have a down day and are feeling emotional? Let it out.
Related: Fear, Anger, Anxiety – You’re Entitled To Your Emotions
Just like it’s important to be honest about what you’ve gone through, it’s vital to know that you can trust someone with the perceived “ugliness” of your post-cancer suffering.
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As many of us know, in general, holding in feelings will often just make things worse in the long run. If you want to truly get close with someone and let them in, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Most importantly, don’t forget to be yourself. You’ve got this!
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