Tags: Cancer | cancer | dating | Sloan-Kettering | social worker

Getting Back in the Dating Game

By    |   Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:43 PM

When you begin dating someone after you’ve had cancer, it’s difficult to decide when to tell your story.
My social worker told me that some people divulge it on the first date, almost as a challenge. But people are more likely to wait until the third or fourth date when they have some idea of where the relationship is going.
You don’t want to tell a person too soon because it runs the risk of defining the relationship. But you don’t want to give the impression that you’re hiding something.
You also have to be careful not to project your own insecurities onto a prospective partner, which can lead you to question whether they would want to be with someone who could relapse.
My social worker and I were discussing this issue because as a long-divorced cancer survivor, it’s a question I have come up against repeatedly. Although cancer is unfortunately so common that you can’t say that it really has a stigma, it’s still different from telling someone about other health problems, like a prior heart attack or diabetes.
It gets easier with every year that passes after the end of treatment. But for people who have relapsed — like me — the clock keeps getting reset.
After all that I have been through, my social worker told me that surviving the dating scene should be easy. But sometimes I wonder.
Once, when I was getting all worked up about telling a new man in my life about my cancer history, a friend told me to remember that while the disease is the biggest deal in my own life, other people have their own issues to think about. In fact, cancer might not be such a big deal to them.
For example, on the day that I told one man that I had had cancer, he took a deep breath and told me that he went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He had his own stuff to deal with.
“Dating is hard and scary even before you had cancer, and all of those fears are probably still there after the cancer,” writes clinical social worker Barbara Golby of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute. “Only now you're dealing with the fears and insecurities that come up as a result of cancer.”
Those worries can involve fear of being rejected because of the disease, body image issues, and a more general struggle to regain your equilibrium after a frightening, draining experience. But Golby notes that the important thing — like my friend had said — is not to let the disease dominate the way you think about a new relationship.
She explains: “Dating is not about finding someone who is willing to date you despite your cancer. It’s about connecting with someone whose company you enjoy and who offers the things you’re looking for in a mate.”

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“Dating is hard and scary even before you had cancer, and all of those fears are probably still there after the cancer."
cancer, dating, Sloan-Kettering, social worker
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 02:43 PM
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