dating and telling

“Whoa, what’s this?”

“It’s a surgery scar.”

“When did you get it?”

“December 2010.”

“Does it have anything do do with why you don’t drink?”

“Yes.”

In fact, it has to do with a lot of things about me. More than I realize, I think.

When I was first diagnosed I remember telling my therapist that I liked my life and I didn’t want to change anything about it. I remember saying I didn’t want to become one of those people who gets cancer and lets it define them. Gradually, as I’ve grown with this disease, I have changed things about my life as a result of this disease. In other words, I have let cancer define me a little, but in good, measured ways (I think). I have let writing back into my life in the form of this blog. I have become interested in some aspect of health care or health policy as a possible career field. In less tangible ways, it has changed the way I look at and think about and approach pretty much everything.

A recent blog post for the New York Times about long-term effects of cancer treatment puts cancer survivors into two categories. I believe I fall into the latter group:

“Cancer survivors generally fall into one of two groups when it comes to our psychological health. First are those plagued by anxiety, depression, even post-traumatic stress disorder, which may afflict up to 58 percent of us, according to a recent American Cancer Society study. Then there are those who experience heightened self-esteem, a greater appreciation of life and its meaning, and sometimes a new or deeper spirituality.”

What does this have to do with dating? My friend Naomi put it better than I can. Naomi is very happily dating a man she met after she was diagnosed with cancer. Yes, it’s possible:

“The way I’ve come took at it is that I’m lucky an amazing man chose me to be his partner not only in spite of the fact that I have cancer but because it’s part of me and always will be, and has significantly shaped who I am and how I interact with the world. He didn’t get stuck or trapped or have to stick around out of obligation. He’s here because he wants to be — cancer and all. And that will be the case for you, too. The person who chooses to be with you will embrace all of you simply because you’re worth it and because cancer doesn’t make you less you; if anything, it makes you more you.”
It’s awkward to know this and then to not be able to talk about it on first dates (primarily because of my own rules and perceptions of what is socially acceptable). But maybe it doesn’t matter. Who really gets to know anyone on a first date anyway? Or a second, or a third, or a fourth? Getting to know someone takes time. My online dating profile provides a surface-level look at me. A first date reveals a little more detail. And so on.
I started this post with the lead-up to my telling a guy about my cancer. What followed this back-and-forth weren’t my most articulate moments, but you get the picture. He didn’t run. In fact, he seemed rather speechless. When I asked him what he would have done had I told him on the first date, he said, “I probably would have done pretty much the same thing I’m doing now.”
As much as I worry about it, I’m not sure whether this reaction is unique. When I told one of my friends, she said, “Come on, Lindsey. How many people ran after you told them?” “Well… zero.” Clearly, I have amazing friends. But dating is tricky, cancer or not.
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6 Responses to dating and telling

  1. Tisa says:

    I fall into both categories of cancer survivors; I had PTSD and I still live and love my life to the fullest.

  2. paulglowiak says:

    I think that is wonderful you found someone that looked past the cancer to see you for who you are. There are not a lot of us around that would do that; most would just run the other way. I am so happy for you!

  3. SM says:

    Ditto to everything everyone else has said. Doing a happy dance over here :)

  4. PhillipS says:

    I have major surgery scars, too, and when asked about them I generally say either “I cut myself shaving” or “It was a tragic needlepoint accident”. I find humor tends to help people move past their initial surprise.

  5. Matt says:

    That’s wonderful news, Lindsey!

    It’s great to be accepted for who we are & where we are.

    Warts & all..as they say.

    Looks like he’s got some depth!

    I’m dancing my happy dance for you, too!

    Blessings…

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