Dating and Cancer: When Do You Talk About Cancer?

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By Abby Henry, Oncology Content Manager, PearlPoint Cancer Support | August 2016


No matter your situation, dating can be hard. Throw a cancer diagnosis into the mix, and it can be even more intimidating. If you want to date, do not let a cancer diagnosis stop you! (If you want to take a break from dating, that is okay, too. You have to do what is best for you!) When thinking about dating, your first question may be when should you tell a potential partner about your diagnosis? There is no perfect answer to this question, but you do have a few options. Think about the pros and cons of each and decide which strategy works for you before you go on a date.

Let any potential dates know upfront.
You may choose to be very open about your diagnosis. This can provide a sense of relief, and it may help “weed out” anyone who isn’t comfortable dating a cancer survivor before you develop feelings for him or her. If you post about your diagnosis on social media or you are very active with a cancer support organization, your potential date may already know about your diagnosis. However, you may wish to wait until you know the person better and know that you can trust him or her.

Tell your date after a few dates if things are going well.
After a few dates, you may feel as if you know the person well enough to trust him or her with your diagnosis. Decide when and how you will tell your date. For example, telling your date about your diagnosis right before the start of a movie may not be the best time! Your date will probably have questions, and you should be prepared to answer them. Your date may be shocked at first, especially if he or she has never known a cancer survivor personally. Try to be ready for any reaction. To calm your nerves, roleplay the conversation with a friend first.

Let the conversation come up naturally.
Depending on where you are in your treatment, the discussion of your diagnosis may come up on its own. Perhaps you’ve lost your hair from chemotherapy or you have a scar from a port. Maybe you will talk about your jobs, and you will share that you had to take some time off for treatment. If you decide to take this more relaxed approach, you should still consider what you will say and be prepared for questions. It may also be helpful to set a deadline in case the topic doesn’t come up naturally. If you begin to move into a more serious relationship, your partner may feel hurt that you didn’t confide in him or her sooner.

Keep your diagnosis private.
If you are casually dating, you do not have to share your diagnosis if you are not comfortable. However, if you decide to enter a serious relationship with a person, you need to tell them—usually sooner rather than later. If you have physical side effects such as scars or hair loss, your date may ask about them. Even if you are finished with treatment, check-ups and screening will continue to be a part of your life for years, so you need to feel comfortable enough with any serious partners to disclose your diagnosis.

Think through your options carefully, and choose the one that works for you. Remember, you had a good and bad dates before cancer, and you will have good and bad dates after cancer, but you may also meet amazing people. Dating is supposed to be fun, so get out there and have fun. You deserve it!

For more on dating and cancer, visit My PearlPoint.

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