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Dating As a Brain Tumor Thriver

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dating can be awkward for anyone. On top of the typical worries that most teenagers have when it comes to dating like wondering what to wear, or simply what to talk about when on a date, tumor/cancer patients have an extra layer of questions to think about. For many patients and survivors this layer includes figuring out how to hide ports underneath clothing, cover up scars, take pills when no one is looking, and disguising hair loss. I think it’s safe to say that a common thread among all tumor/cancer patients is a loss of energy; I struggled with this the most out of all of my treatment symptoms, and maintaining the appearance of having a high or “normal” energy level when out with friends was a challenge. I eventually realized that the friends and dates who are worth it are the ones who don’t care about your medical differences. It’s like Bernard Baruch once said, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

The extra layer of questions that tumor/cancer patients face also includes wondering who you should introduce your medical history to in its entirety, when you should introduce your medical history, how you should go about introducing it. Quite frankly, most non-tumor/cancer patients don’t understand the difference in tumors and cancers, various treatment processes, or the impact that long hospital stays have on patients. You can’t expect anyone you date to immediately understand what you’ve gone through or how you feel. And that’s OK! What you can expect, though, is for you to figure out a way to intertwine what I used to refer to as a “medical life” and a “social life” with time. Having an illness at a young age brings about maturity in patients years before other kids have even entered a hospital for the second time in their life. This maturity brings a unique perspective on life, and if you take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned from the past, you’ll be better equipped for dealing with the future, whether what you learn is about dating or life in general. Learn from your dating mistakes!

Pro tip #1: Do not start off a conversation with “Hi, I have a brain tumor!” If you haven’t seen the movie 50/50, then you should check it out and pay close attention to the scene at a nightclub where Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets rejected on the dance floor for trying to use having cancer as a pickup line. Don’t get me wrong - being honest is great, but startling someone with something as personal as this right off the bat isn’t the best move you can make.

Pro tip #2: Do answer questions about your health when someone seriously asks. Questions are good! If someone is bothering to ask, they have a genuine interest in your well-being. I’m not saying that you should share your life story, but a simple, vague response gets the job done. I’ve found that vagueness is good in the beginning when you’re introducing something this heavy into a relationship – details can come later as needed.

Tumor/cancer patients are tough cookies! We can handle the stress that comes with hospital stays, doctors visits, and treatment sessions, so we can definitely handle getting over the awkward hurdles that come with dating as a tumor/cancer patient and the possibilities of rejection that come along with taking a few risks. A moment typically presents itself for when you should say something; that moment could be anywhere from a few days to months to years after knowing someone. Don’t be afraid to let someone else in on what was or still is such a huge part of your life. If whoever you’re crushing on or dating is really worth being with, they won’t be scared off by your medical history. In fact, they’ll gain even more respect for you because of what you have been through! If you live your life afraid of what other people might think, then you’ll run out of tomorrows before you can live the life that you want to live. We have to keep in mind that our diagnosis changes our lives, but it does not define us.

As a side note - I help head up the Michigan chapter of the mAss Kickers Foundation. Feel free to check out the MKF group blog that I contribute to, the MKF Facebook Page, and the MKF website

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