Lately, I’ve been struggling to write. It’s been hard to even type a full sentence due to my complete inability to concentrate. They call this mental fatigue “chemo brain.” Yet writing is the only way I really make sense of the world, so I’ve forced myself to sit down and compose this column. Luckily, this happens to be a subject I’m pretty well versed in.
Singledom. You know, as in being single. Nothing too out of the ordinary, I mean, loads of people are single. But being single with cancer is a whole different story.
Still, I have no doubt there’s a large number of people navigating through treatment without a partner by their side. So, I thought I’d discuss the struggle we singletons face while going through cancer.
I’ve never been much of a relationship person myself. Granted, that’s not to say I haven’t been in relationships; I have, but I always pride myself on being sort of a lone wolf, a free spirit, if you will. I enjoy my own company; I like doing things alone, traveling to foreign countries, hanging out with myself. But like the majority of people, I also like companionship. I like going on adventures with someone, I like intimacy. I mean who doesn’t enjoy a good cuddle?
Just before my lymphoma relapse in October, I made the decision to leave a year and a half relationship in Ecuador and move to London. As tough as it was to leave, I felt the decision was right for my future plans. Fast-forward to two months later, and all those plans had kind of, well, fallen apart. Suddenly, I was facing the chemo chair once again. It was as if overnight, all that radical independence had dissipated before my eyes, and I began to ache for the comfort of my former partner. That isn’t to say I didn’t have a huge support network around me. However, it’s not quite the same as having a partner.
Firstly, there are dramatic changes in one’s physical appearance. The hair loss, the PICC or port one has put in, weight changes, fluctuating mood swings, possible loss of fertility. One doesn’t exactly feel like their most beautiful self while going through cancer, and there have been many moments when I’ve felt as if having a partner might have made it all a lot easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about how I looked, as I’d be with someone who loved me in spite of my reflection in the mirror. And yet being alone has meant I’ve had to rely on a sense of internal self-love to carry me through. It’s meant loving myself wholeheartedly through the baldness, the weight loss and gain, the sleepless nights, the loneliness. I know in the long run that learning to love myself is the most valuable lesson I could be gaining from all of this, and I will eventually attract someone just as whole and happy in themselves as me.
There is also, of course, the challenge of trying to date. How does one date with cancer? Do you wear wigs and pretend you’re not bald? Do you lie and say you shaved off your hair because you’re an edgy badass and not facing a life-threatening disease? It’s all so wildly messy and uncomfortable. Personally, for me, I think it’s best to be upfront and honest. Lay all your cards on the table and confess your truth. There is power in vulnerability.
And at the end of the day, the fact that you’re going through something so difficult and yet you’re brave enough to put yourself out there, that alone makes you strong and unique and beautiful. Although, one caveat: You might want to prepare yourself for the possibility of rejection. Not everyone is equipped to deal with this sort of thing.
One particular experience I had when starting to see someone was when I heard his friend ask him, “Aren’t you freaked out by all of this?” That comment really stung. Just because I’m battling an illness like cancer doesn’t make me some kind of a freak. But you learn to grow a thick skin, you learn to dust yourself off, you learn to hold your head up high, and you do truly learn to value yourself more than ever before.
Regardless of all the hurdles one faces when navigating the turbulent waters of dating with cancer, I still genuinely think we should put ourselves out there. The right person is going to want to stick around in spite of your battle scars. The right person is going to see you and like you for exactly who you are.
And if they don’t, well, as Ariana Grande would say: “Thank you, next.”
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.