Tips on Dating After Cancer

Last updated: September 2019

You may have read one of my previous posts about dating after cancer where I talked about some of the many struggles I was having after cancer treatment. A normal life for a single 20-something-year-old includes getting back into the dating scene. Dating by itself is a bit awkward, but when you add cancer into the mix, it can feel dreadful at times. I went through so many uncomfortable dates and had some painfully awkward conversations about my prior diagnosis.

For example, I was on a third date with a guy and things seemed to be going well. I figured it was probably time to let him know about my medical history since it was becoming more and more difficult to avoid talking about it. When I told him, he seemed to respond well at first, but then said, “You shouldn’t have been nervous to tell me that, I have skeletons in my closet too.” That caught me off guard because I had never thought about my cancer diagnosis as a skeleton in my closet. Then he went on to tell me about how he had been arrested twice, had a DUI, and wasn’t allowed to drive his car on the military base he worked on because of the trouble he got in. I was shocked that this guy just compared my cancer diagnosis to his multiple arrests! Needless to say, there wasn’t another date after that.

Advice on dating after cancer

If you want to hear a little more about the troubles I had with dating after cancer, you can check out my prior blog post. But the reason I’m writing this is to share a little advice that I’ve learned the hard way. It turns out, there are actually great guys (and girls!) out there that don’t care about a cancer diagnosis.

Own your diagnosis

First of all, make sure you own your diagnosis! It’s not something to be ashamed of and none of us should feel the need to hide it. We are not defined by cancer, but that doesn’t mean that cancer isn’t a big part of our lives. If you feel uncomfortable telling someone about it because of how they may react, that’s probably a clear sign that they aren’t the one for you anyway.

3 reactions: Sympathy, fear, and respect

I started opening up about my diagnosis within the first 2 or 3 dates because I didn’t want to waste my time on someone who didn’t seem to respond well to my medical history. I typically heard 3 types of reactions after announcing my previous diagnosis. First, there were the guys who were sympathetic and felt bad for me. I hated that. Then there were the people who would question whether I might relapse and treated me like a ticking time bomb. But, occasionally, I would meet people who were actually impressed by what I had survived. I never expected that reaction but it was refreshing to know that so many people seemed to have a ton of respect for me after learning about what I had been through. This is the type of reaction you’re looking for and you shouldn’t settle for anything less.

Only share what you're comfortable sharing

Also, remember that you don’t owe it to anyone to tell them anything you’re uncomfortable with. Do it on your own timeline. I set the 2-3 date rule with myself because that’s what worked for me, but there should be no pressure to tell anyone something that you’re not ready to share. It’s really nobody’s business, especially if cancer is no longer an active part of your life. If or when you choose to share your past with someone, never allow anyone to make you feel like anything less than the warrior you are.

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