Honestly, I have no experience with dating after cancer. I do have experience dating before cancer and chasing emotionally unavailable men. I’ve also had several healthy long-term relationships. I can offer insight into what I think dating after cancer should be like. If I ever start dating again, I’ll have some real material. For now, we’ll speculate and get mentally prepared.
Don’t lead with your cancer story. Sure, you’ve been through hell and lived to tell about it, this will only add to your allure. Wait until the relationship is strong enough to support the emotional weight of your story. Your experience was important, life-changing and will always be a part of you. It’s easy for loved ones to inadvertently minimize what we’ve been through or misunderstand what we’re still dealing with. Relationships are hard enough as it is, and everybody has been through something that wasn’t pretty. Honest communication is the key to having a healthy relationship.
Cancer probably deepened your appreciation for life causing you to seek out joyful, meaningful experiences. For me, bad boys lost their appeal because my tolerance for drama and heartbreak became non-existent. I finally resolved some of my old, unhealthy patterns. See, cancer is a teacher. The kind of teacher that made you work for the lesson and only gave you an A+ if you really deserved it.
Find a person who shares your interests. Do they exercise, eat healthy and have hobbies they enjoy? Do they have supportive family and friends? Can you be yourself around them? Do they make you smile and laugh? Do they make you a priority? Do they listen without judgement and offer helpful feedback? Do they respect your need for alone time? Do they appreciate your quirks and encourage your talents?
Are you creating a spiritual partnership allowing each other to grow and mature? Do you share the same spiritual or religious beliefs? Do they inspire and challenge you to become a better person, the best version of yourself? Do you enjoy the physical aspects of the relationship? Do they respect your wishes to take things slow or speed things up? Do they help with the household chores of cleaning, laundry and cooking? This goes both ways, are you doing your part? These have expanded into relationship questions, but that’s where dating leads. Good luck and you can do it!
Cancer treatment takes a tremendous toll on your mind, body and spirit. What doesn’t get better, you learn to live with. I still struggle with neuropathy, lymphedema and hearing loss. We need an understanding partner, someone who can massage our shoulders and help us fix dinner. We need a distraction from our normal reality. Chronic pain and fatigue are not fun. If we aren’t proactive it’s very easy to slip into depression. We need something that makes life worth living: a hobby, service project, children or family. It’s much easier to deal with the bad stuff when our lives are filled with the good stuff – love, light and laughter.
I’ve spent many years thinking, no one will ever love me now, but that’s because I wasn’t loving myself. You teach people how to treat you. I also wondered, how will I ever compete with the women who haven’t been through hell. My only competition is myself. Am I trying hard enough? Do I really want to be loved? Am I being good to me? The person who loves me can see the beauty in my scars and the strength in my eyes. Going to the underworld, shaking hands with death, surviving the divine storm, whatever you want to call it, my cancer experience was a gift because it brought me here today. I have a blog that’s helping me get closure and has the potential to help others.