Navigating an online dating world can be very challenging. If you are single and diagnosed with cancer, that challenge increases. Dating is usually the last thing that comes to your mind while handling endless doctor appointments and medications which make you sick. However, the hope to meet someone to fall in love with is stronger than any disease possible, and that is exactly what brings cancer survivors to dating apps.
Although there are some dating apps just for cancer survivors, it is most likely that you will find a lot of them on Tinder and other popular dating apps. They are not hiding, they just might not describe themselves as cancer-warriors on their dating profiles. Some of them might do that as well, so don’t be scared away by this courage.
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But, you look so healthy!
Zoe Noble, a 26-year-old dental nurse from South-West England who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour shared with Britneytoyphotography her experience about going on dates. Zoe has been using dating apps and looking for relationships while fighting with cancer, but she never went on a date during her treatments as she lost all her self-confidence. After treatments, she finally started going on dates. On her dating profile she would never point out her cancer, but she was very open to mention that on a first date. And guess what, it was never as bad as she expected it to be.
Talking about a disease is not a topic that you would normally choose for a first date. Or for the second one. Not for the third one either. But if you are dating a person who went through the hell of fighting any kind of cancer, this topic will be brought up sooner or later. Some people are open to talk about it on a first date, others are not ready to talk about it at all. Anyway, it cannot be hidden forever. At the latest when things start to warm up a bit and you see each other naked, there will probably be some visible evidence of the disease.
Megan-Claire Chase, a 43-old breast cancer survivor from Atlanta, started her blog Warrior Megsie to highlight the struggles of being a young adult cancer survivor. She was diagnosed when she was 39 and a few months after she was declared NED (no evidence of disease), she considered going on dates. Searching for dating opportunities Megan-Claire chose Match.com and Cupid.com and didn’t hesitate to put her profile picture from the breast cancer race and writing in her dating profile that she is a survivor.
Although she wanted to make it very clear to all her future dates that she was dealing with cancer for a few years, after not getting too many responses, she changed the profile picture to a non-cancer one. However, Megan-Claire prefers to say on the first date that she is a breast cancer survivor. Normally, her dates would be curious and ask questions about how she is feeling, but sadly often they would run away.
“I’m not the same woman I once was. I’m not as carefree anymore and I’m covered in scars”, tells Megan-Claire for Britneytoyphotography. The most common responses on her honesty about cancer were “But you look so healthy” or “I never would’ve guessed you had been through so much.”
Statistically, 40% of young adults diagnosed with cancer are single
Cancer is not a contagious disease as sadly some people on dating apps still may think. The sad truth is that cancer rates are very high worldwide. Every two minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with cancer, according to the statistics from the Cancer Research US.
Unfortunately, numbers on the other side of the ocean are not promising either. About 80,000 young adults aged 20 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.
Currently, one in seven US women suffers from breast cancer, reveals a study by the American Cancer Society.
According to the study “Do single people want to date a cancer survivor?” from the Department of Health Psychology of the University of Groningen, around 40% of young adults and 15% of middle-aged people who have been diagnosed with cancer are single.
Most survey respondents wanted to hear about the cancer diagnosis after a few dates, and hardly anyone wanted to hear about this before the first date (2% – 5%), the same study reveals.
What should you expect if you go on a date with a person diagnosed with cancer?
When cancer survivors or cancer diagnosed are looking for a partner, there are a lot of issues and inner fears that they are facing. They might feel insecure and different, negative about their bodies, less sexually desirable, worried about late effects like infertility and other numerous fears. But there is one thing that terrifies them the most – a negative reaction from potential partners toward their appearance.
It is not just that they have to deal with their own fears, but they usually also have to deal with their potential partner’s fears and maybe never loudly asked questions like:
- “Is your cancer contagious?”
- “Will your cancer come back?”
- “Can you have sex?”
- “Do you have any scars or physical problems?” or, perhaps the most intimate one:
- “Can you have children?”.
Yes, those are questions that cancer diagnosed people have been asked.
Yes, they understand those are legit questions of a potential partner.
Yes, they often don’t know how to answer.
Most thrivers (a term for cancer survivor that is preferred by some) are more deeply loving and willing to commit and engage with others than the average person.
Dr. Zavaleta shared some of her observations on the ways to deal with negative dating experiences. “In talking with my friends who are young and single cancer thrivers, if they are dating, they don’t suffer fools and they are direct about what they want. They try not to internalize any negativity.
They are confident and accepting of themselves because their focus is on living life and experiencing joy and love – the love of all types. This isn’t to say that cancer thrivers looking for a partner aren’t lonely – I’ve heard them say that they do get lonely. But it isn’t about begging for attention, it’s about being open for an opportunity to spend quality time with another person who also wants to be with you”, said Dr. Zavaleta for Britneytoyphotography.
April Johnson Stearns, survivor, founder and editor-in-chief of Wildfire, the magazine for young women who are facing life after a breast cancer diagnosis, talked about the fears of single cancer patients when it comes to a new relationship and how to overcome those fears.
Dating is not easy but fighting with cancer is neither
There is one common thing between dating and cancer – both can cause physical and emotional changes that affect the energy and interest in relationships in one way or another.
For singles who are/were dealing with cancer, dating is often a terrifying step to do in their lives. But it is a step which has to be done. The step that brings back the hope of finding true love and support from another person. The step that might lead them through many disappointments and emotional pain, but in the end might bring true love.
For those who just met someone who was dealing with cancer over dating apps, this experience also might be mind changing. Even if you are not aware of it, your reaction can help them overcome their deepest fears or make them feel miserable about their insecurities.
The dating experience of Sophia Holland, a 40 year-old woman, diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer brings up everything what anyone should ever know about dating a cancer survivor.
“At first, I felt a lot of reticence in starting a relationship. How is it fair to introduce this disease into someone else’s life? But we decided to try it, and we are still together. I ended up talking about my diagnosis right off the bat. While, of course, it is a lot for a boyfriend to handle, he has been so supportive and caring and encouraging to me. It was hard for me at the beginning, because I had a lot of guilt, and still do, about bringing this into someone else’s life”, said Sophia and made a crucial conclusion: “But it has been worth it. While cancer plays a role in our relationship, it is just one aspect”.