Dating and Cancer 101

by Amy Atwood

SWF, Bald, Undergoing Chemo and Radiation…

Oh yeah, isn’t that the first profile you would click on if you were searching for the love of your life or even just a new ‘friend’ online? Dating in itself – or, I should say, finding someone to date – is never easy. Finding someone when you happen to be bald, going through chemo and/or making daily trips to the hospital for radiation makes it a zillion times more complicated. I know. I’ve tried it.

The author, with her long-hair wig.
The author, with her long-hair wig.

The most difficult thing for me about going through breast cancer treatment was doing it single. I have such an incredible, large, strong support network so I was hardly ever alone. My core team of my son, parents, and closest girlfriends would give me the evil eye any time I even hinted at going to an appointment by myself. But that didn’t prevent me from being lonely sometimes and longing for someone to hold me at night and whisper that everything was going to be alright. Or even just to take me to dinner and make me laugh and smile and forget about cancer for a little while.

Nearly everyone I encountered who had breast cancer – friends, people at the hospital, family, people in books and on TV – were either married or in a serious relationship when they were diagnosed. Not me. I was in the very vulnerable beginning months of a new relationship. And it, along with my hair and hopefully all the cancer cells, couldn’t survive the treatment. So not only did I not have someone to hold my hand every step of the way, I had to deal with a break-up as I tried to navigate the new-to-me world of cancer.

I tried to distract myself, but couldn’t help having Significant Other Envy every time I sat in a waiting room and saw a guy with his arm draped protectively around a woman with an IV. Then, on the morning of chemo round three, Dana-Farber posted a blog about dating during cancer treatment. The article gave me the push I needed to put myself back in the game. (Read the full post about this on my blog.)

I took pictures in different wigs, signed up for a free online dating site and posted my profile. Within minutes I had e-mails from men ready to shower me with attention. Of course, most weren’t exactly my type, but you need to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, right? (Figuratively speaking, of course!)

I had some really interesting e-mail exchanges, phone calls and dates (and some not so interesting…), but did not find the man of my dreams during treatment. Still, dating during treatment restored my self-confidence, reassured me that I was still attractive, and distracted me from the world of cancer.

It made me feel normal again.

There were many people who thought I was crazy for trying to fit in dating while going through treatment and working, others who worried I’d be hurt by insensitive men when they learned about my diagnosis, and many with every type of contradicting dating advice known to man. But the bottom line is you need to do what feels right to you. If you want to date, date. Don’t let cancer stop you! There was not one guy who ran away or changed his mind when I told him my situation. And sometimes dating is just what you need to escape cancer and feel like a regular girl again.