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By Lindsay “Dozer” Brookshier
Dating can be a beast of a headache. It’s no wonder that this topic inspires tons of articles in magazines, blogs, books, and conversations on television. There is so much weird etiquette to agonize over and different rules to live by. When do I txt him back? Do I play hard to get? Is he ghosting me? What do we disclose and when? It gives me hives just writing about it.
As a young adult cancer survivor/fighter, it has the potential to be a nightmare. There isn’t a guidebook for us and we, like many of our struggles, must make it up as we go along. Battling cancer leaves scars, physical and mental, and can impact us years after treatment passes. From issues such as chemo-induced menopause, infertility, P.T.S.D., neuropathy, and mastectomies there is no hiding the way cancer leaves a lasting impression.
So do you tell someone right away about your cancer history/present? What a conversation starter that would be! Let’s talk about chemotherapy over pasta, that will really get their motor running. There’s nothing sexier than talking about injecting straight up poison into your chest. Hey baby, want to see my port scar? Do you like bald chicks? Let me tell you about my scanxiety, I’m sure that’ll put you at ease.
Yeah, not exactly conversation starters many people feel comfortable with.
This one question alone seems so simple yet it’s so complicated. If you don’t share your experiences right away, are you really being honest and true to yourself? But if you share too soon, there’s that fear of scaring people away. Because let’s face it, young adult cancer makes so many people uncomfortable. No one likes to hear about cancer in our age group. It makes people question their own mortality and no one wants to be reminded of how uncertain life can be. ‘That could happen to me’ is a valid and common fear that many young adults are not ready to be confronted with. Dealing with cancer can be an isolating experience. So it’s reasonable to feel pressured into not wanting to share those experiences right away. Who wants the risk of feeling othered when you’re trying to connect with someone new?
But how long is too long to wait? If someone cannot handle the tug of war you’ve played with your cells, shouldn’t you know right off the bat instead of wasting your time?
There’s no easy answers for this. And unfortunately, this seemingly simple question can be daunting enough to take the thrill out of dating. Issues in the same wheelhouse as your sex life doesn’t exactly help those thrills either. No one wants someone to be reminded of weird vagina pill commercials that come on during the Price is Right when you try to explain your menopause. And what about sexy time itself? Hey, did you bring a condom? Nah, no worries these eggs aren’t hatching, it’s cool brah! And speaking of infertility, what about that? No one wants to start talking about the future too early but what if you spend a significant amount of time with someone just to find out they only want biological children and that’s not a possibility for you? Then what? And since fertility options are an absolute mess for cancer patients, there are so many of us that cannot have children.
It’s a struggle in all aspects. Communication is likely the best option (I’m not Oprah though so don’t ask me!) but that doesn’t make it any easier.
On the flip side of all of this, someone worth your time will accept these things. And you deserve that strength in your life. There’s no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Just a shared mutuality and frustration for how much cancer impacts every aspect of our lives. And that just sucks. The one thing worth saying is don’t isolate yourself. Don’t give up. And laugh it off. If someone freaks about your cancer and runs for it, be happy that they ran. Let them run as far away from your thriving booty as possible. They didn’t deserve those cancer fighting buns of steel anyways.
This is another topic that highlights how important it is to have a community to belong to that understands. One of the many life changing things about going on my first trip with First Descents is now that I have a community to turn to whenever I need it. There can be no isolation when you have a tribe of people supporting you that share so many of your same experiences. And that’s so important.