Dating is hard, whether or not you face a chronic illness. Am I right? I’ve chronicled a lot of my experiences from the time I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma until now. As a young adult, dating continued to be an important part of normalcy and my experience. I had fun, I became annoyed and, most importantly, I learned. So what’s dating with cancer like, you ask? Here’s a journal through it all.
I haven’t been in a serious relationship for a long time. I just moved to Los Angeles, a completely new city across the country from most of my family and friends. I am in shape, I am smart, and sometimes I might even be funny. I go on a lot of dates and am seeing someone regularly whose company I enjoy. We’re like friends with benefits and have a good thing going. He laughs at me because I leave my hair all over his apartment when I’m there. Dating in Los Angeles is fun and exciting, and I don’t HATE it.
My hair is still everywhere, but this time it’s because it’s falling out and thinning due to chemo. When I started treatment, the “good thing” I had going began seeing one of my good friends in LA. What a low blow.
I am determined to continue my dating life, though. I downloaded dating applications like JSwipe and Bumble and started swiping. I love talking with people — and even more so when my diagnosis does not creep into the conversation. As soon as my cancer is brought up, a majority of the prospects on the apps become uninterested. They never say it, but I can tell.
I’ve found that when I do go on dates, relating can be hard. After facing my own mortality, I’ve learned that I don’t know how to relate to many people. That’s particularly true with those who have no concept of the value each day brings, or those who don’t understand that image isn’t everything.
I hate the question “So what do you do?” If I’m feeling snarky, I say “chemo.” I probably seem like the laziest person imaginable when I’m asked what I’m up to, because I’m usually lying around recovering from chemo. I don’t feel good enough about myself yet to put a lot of effort into dating. I’m so tired.
Some days I don’t even want to be touched. But the compassion and comfort another person can provide me romantically and sexually can be enticing. I met someone through a friend who has Hodgkin’s disease, and we have a wonderful connection. I love our time together, but something is missing. We saw each other for a while, but now I love his friendship. I have found wonderful lifelong friends through the dating apps, but I wasn’t at a point when I started using them where I could meet someone I could connect with romantically.
Dating is the worst. I’m done with chemo, done with all my meds, my hair is growing back, and I am back in LA. Cancer is not written on me, but the long-term effects are still around. I can no longer take off my wig to show someone what I’m going through.
After returning to Los Angeles and finding a new place, I went back on the dating apps. I am constantly being asked why my hair is short. I try to brush it off with jokes, but eventually it has to be answered honestly. And I do answer it honestly. I get an “I’m sorry” and, eventually, canceled plans. This isn’t new. It happened during chemo, too. I convinced myself that I needed to be with another cancer survivor. I even developed a life’s mission of creating a dating app for cancer patients and survivors. I found it incredibly hard to date. AND I HATED DATING.
I decided to ditch the dating apps and focus on understanding my new normal, which cancer patients face post-chemo. Eight months later, I met a guy at a bar when I was with friends. His name is Adam, and he is one of the most amazing things to happen to me since I was diagnosed with cancer. If I could tell my pre-, during-, and shortly-after-cancer self one thing, it would be to let life flow and not take dating too seriously. Practice self-love and own your insecurities.
After we were together for six months, Adam asked me to marry him. And I said YES! I used to think I needed to end up with someone who had faced the same struggles I had. But the balance and support I receive from someone who has never been directly affected by cancer is beautiful. If I could give survivors and patients one piece of advice, it would be to never sell yourself short because of your disease. Own it. The right person will understand you and love your scars. They will want to be part of your story.
Everything is going to be oookay.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.