I was reading this article about "Dating with Cancer" and I started thinking. (I apologize in advance for allowing myself to think but sometimes I even have deep thoughts!) I had cancer and was treated over a summer and returned to college for my sophomore year. I think it was fairly common knowledge on the small campus (1000 students) that I had cancer over the summer.
I quickly learned not to start conversations on 'what I did on my summer vacation' with 'I had cancer' but sometimes my friends and I would talk about it. In terms of dating and intimacy, and when to talk about cancer, I think the right time to bring it up is when you feel comfortable with it. There is no right or wrong time to bring it up - once you are past the first few dates.
If you show up on your first date and they ask you to tell a few things about yourself and you start with 'I just finished chemotherapy for my 'fill in the blank' cancer, and go back to my oncologist next week to see what my latest PET scan said', you shoudln't be surprised if suddenly they develop a stomach virus and have to go home.
If you and your partner have a great and open relationship and can talk about everything, you may feel comfortable bringing it up casually.
If you are a badge wearing, card carrying member of the cancer club, and make it your life motto, you may find you need to find a badge wearer to be comfortable at your side.
If you consider your cancer to be part of you that takes you to the doctor more frequently than your friends, you are probably more relaxed about it and less stressed.
A few things I did learn over the years:
- Never lie about your health to a partner. If you do not feel comfortable enough with them to tell them about your health honestly, they are not probably a good partner for you. Honesty is important in a relationship. And a surgical scar will always look like a surgical scar unless you put a tattoo over it to hide it.
- There is no line in the sand which says you must tell someone your medical history before sex. You do need to talk about STDS and birth control and all that stuff but you don't need to tell them about chemotherapy and recurrence rates.
- You really should have a full disclosure on your health before marriage as it would be unfair to your partner not to tell them the truth.
I will sum up my advice on dating and cancer with 'go with your gut'. If you meet a great new potential partner and start talking as much as you can, spending every second you can together. As your conversations unfold and get more and more personal, you start to reveal more about yourself.
When to bring it up? Maybe take a moment, pour a cup of coffee and sit down and say you have something important you want to tell them. Make it clear you aren't going to drop dead anytime soon and be factual and keep it light. Your partner may have questions then or wait to ask questions until later. If you keep it an open topic that can be discussed again in the future.
If your potential partner runs for the hills at the news you aren't in perfect health, its probably just as well you found out sooner.