I’m back and as transparent as ever with one of the most non transparent subjects ever…dating after cancer. As you all know, I’m a huge advocate of dating during treatment and a firm believer that everyone comes into your life for a reason, for a season, and serves an indefinite purpose. (Did I seriously just write that? Hashtag vomit) We all hold on to that image of a fairy tale in hope that it’s actually possible, that happy ending. When you’re dating someone during treatment, they see you at your most vulnerable. For real, you’re bald, sick, hugging a toilet, and even attached to a chemotherapy pole. You’re connected to this person because they’ve seen you at rock bottom, so how the hell is any other NoRmaL person going to “get” what you’ve been through? It’s a two way street though because whether we want to admit it or not, you’re both connected in a weird PTSD kinda way. Some people actually even bond over trauma. Sometimes on the other hand it’s not love, and you’re actually just chemo drunk.
That was always my thing. I was always chemo drunk slash hung up on someone that I met during treatment because omg, who else would ever understand the twisted stuff we go through during treatment? In my case this hang up was over a doctor, of course, since I like to break the rules. And on his part, who could resist a cute cancer patient with a ridiculous personality? I’ll give myself that. My personality is one for the books. I have my flaws, but you definitely can’t compare me to the next girl. (Boring is never a word that has EVER been used to describe me) Again, in a twisted, PTSD kinda way, I always thought “what if?” This person, PERSON X, moved away to another state to practice Oncology, but it was always in the back of my mind if our timing would ever be right. When we met after treatment when enough time had passed (I’m talking like 2+ years), I didn’t even recognize the person I was meeting. Don’t get me wrong, this guy is great and such a nice person. But he was different, he wasn’t the same person I met when I was sick. Then again, I also wasn’t the same person he met when I was sick. Maybe practicing medicine and experiencing so much loss changed him. Maybe cancer changed me. It just wasn’t the same and he had a lot of characteristics that I didn’t like, and I’m sure he can say the same for me. It was that cancer PTSD crap. I wanted to smack him at some points hearing the things that came out of his mouth. Hello? You see people die every day. What are you doing? Don’t you get that life is so damn short? It wasn’t love, I was just chemo drunk. So maybe your post chemo hang up could be because you were just chemo drunk. That’s for you to decide.
I think it took me a good two years after treatment to get used to my “new normal” and be ready or even want to take anyone seriously. The first year or two is a shit show. I didn’t take myself seriously, never mind another person. I was so focused on living my life while I could, that I was all over the place, acting wreckless just incase the big C came back. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact I encourage it. You just fought the biggest fight of your life. You do you. Remember that thing that we all wanna do while we’re sick called living? Well, now is your chance. I don’t know one person who went back to “normal” life pre treatment. Is that even possible? If you see posts on social media showing people straight back to normal, keep scrolling because they’re lying to you. Straight up lying! Unfollow.
Back to dating though, during and post cancer, my world completely changed. My priorities changed. I changed. Although treatment is over for me, cancer never really left my life. Whether it’s in your body or not, it will be part of you forever. It shaped you. For better or for worse. I mean we can’t even donate our organs anymore, come on people. So, you have to find someone that not only understands this but respects it. Scratch that. They probably won’t understand it, but it’s mandatory that they respect it. So I dated. Which was great, but the whole process helped me realize what I don’t want. When you’re sitting in an emergency room at 2 o’clock in the morning alone on a paranoid relapse binge and your significant other isn’t with you because he would rather be sleeping, that’s a huge red flag. Just a friendly piece of advice. That’s not normal. Don’t settle for that. Bye hun.
So is dating after cancer really difficult? Or is there another word we can use to describe it? I don’t think it’s difficult, I think it helps us not to SETTLE. Look around you and you’ll see how many people are settling. Not just in the dating scene, but with life in general. When you’re going through chemo, you think about life and how much time you wasted, and you regret it. I regreted it. I remember sitting attached to my chemo not thinking of all of the awesome things I bought, but how much time I wasted. Dating the wrong people, thinking about the wrong things, caring about the wrong things, not giving the right people a chance. It’s not so much that dating becomes more difficult, IMO it’s that our standards for people in general become more demanding, which ultimately helps us avoid settling. This is the stuff we learn during treatment–how short life is and how important it is not to settle. So stop beating yourself up. These post chemo thoughts are helping you dodge major bullets. I’ve managed to only roll my eyes once at a text message from Sam, Dick, or Harry once and call it a day instead of waste my time dating a person when I know immediately that they’re a douchebag. It’s called time management. Roll your eyes once and carry on to avoid months of future torture or heartache.
Dating after cancer is all about YOUR perception. So cheers to not settling, dodging bullets, and losers. There are a lot of awesome people out there that you’re going to meet. Trust the process because dating after cancer is all about learning what you do and don’t want in a significant other. Also just an FYI divorce is super expensive. The next time Susan asks why you’re not married, ask her why she isn’t divorced yet, because she probably should be.
Sending good vibes and cells as always.
Your (former but forever) Lymphoma Barbie