I Conquered Cancer, Now How Do I Conquer My Love Life?

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I Conquered Cancer, Now How Do I Conquer My Love Life?

A stage 4B cancer survivor shares her dating experience during and after cancer.

Have you ever seen the movie “A Little Bit of Heaven”? In it, Kate Hudson’s character is diagnosed with cancer and falls in love with her doctor.

Well, that was my life during cancer treatment. Except I didn’t die and it wasn’t a HIPAA violation, because the doctor in question was just a resident in the ICU.

It was love at first “Doctor, I need more Dilaudid and 2 milligrams of Ativan!” sight.

I’m not sure why, but dating while going through my cancer treatments wasn’t really all that difficult for me. As a pharmaceutical representative for a major international pharma company, I was already spending most of my time at the hospital. In fact, my friends would often make fun of me for how much I loved doctors, saying I’d eventually end up marrying one.

People who work in healthcare tend to be very empathetic, because they’ve seen it all. They respect you and understand what you’re going through. Sure, some of the men I met would come over to my apartment to eat all my food and leave the toilet seat up. (He was a definite no for me.) But others would just talk to me, or walk my dog with me, even after a night shift. Almost every night shift.

That was my ICU doctor. He gave me a new perspective on life. And I think I gave him a new perspective, too.

Unfortunately, life gets complicated, especially for patients and doctors, and the fairy tale didn’t go as planned. But I’ll always have a special little place in my heart for the one that got away.

One thing I’m frequently asked is, “What’s it like to date when you have cancer?” Well, just like cancer and treatment, it’s different for everyone. We all react to life’s curveballs in our own way. And as I’ve already noted, for me, it was pretty easy.

What wasn’t easy, surprisingly, was dating after my cancer treatments ended.

Life after cancer isn’t what you think it is

Don’t get me wrong. Life after cancer is great. For one thing, I’m alive! But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Unless you’re already in a relationship during chemo, you’re just not ready to reenter the world of dating after treatment. (This is my opinion, and you can have your own. I sure wasn’t ready.) It’s been over a year and a half since my last chemo session, and I still don’t know if I’m fully ready.

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Because by going through cancer treatment, you lose yourself. Goodbye, I lost myself! I’m not the same person I was when I first stepped into the hospital. I don’t even recognize that girl.

The first year of treatment is such a roller coaster. Your mind is almost completely caught up with the fact that the future is so unknown. Once that all ends, you’re still wrapping your head around the fact that you were forced to come to terms with your own mortality. You almost died. You were basically poisoned. You’ve lost any physical identity that you once had, and can’t even recognize yourself in the mirror.

You’re also probably dealing with a lot of emotional and physical side effects. It’s not easy to lose your hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, and have to explain that to someone. A lot of insecurity comes with this.

You’re going to freak yourself out, you’re going to think you’re relapsing, you’re going to have meltdowns.

This is all OK. This is all normal! It will get better. It’ll take time, but it will get better. But it’s hard to explain this to someone who’s never been through it. It’s hard to even find the energy to. They couldn’t possibly get it, right?

Read on: I Conquered Cancer… Now How Do I Conquer My Love Life?

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