Wednesday 13 May, 2020

Dating after cancer – how to cope

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What is dating after cancer like? “When is the right time to tell your new date about your cancer experience?” “Do I have to tell my date about my cancer?” Every week in the War On Cancer app we post War On Cancer ‘Take Overs’, highlighting topics relevant to those of us during and after cancer treatment. This week the War On Cancer weekly take over is done by Linnéa Hjort – Community Manager at War On Cancer and participant of “Farmer Meets Wife-Worldwide 2020 Sweden”. This week we’re getting to know Linnéa on a more personal level and her experience with dating after cancer treatment.

Meet Linnéa

My name is Linnéa and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, at the age of 29. I was born in Peru but my parents are Swedish. I have been living most of my life in France and Spain and today I live in Africa. I have a soft spot for animals, I enjoy exercising and being active which compensate for the fact that I have a sweet tooth! Something that I’ve always believed in is love. I think it’s the most beautiful thing we can generate during our time alive. Love gives me hope and makes me vibrate. I am happiest when giving and receiving love.

Linnéa Hjort, community manager at War On Cancer and breast cancer survivor
The thought of dating post-cancer treatment

Up until cancer hit me I had been invested in a relationship which wasn’t always good for me and when I was diagnosed I oddly became strong enough to let go of that relationship. I am thankful that cancer made me brave enough to leave a bad relationship. After I left the relationship dating during my cancer treatment wasn’t even on my radar, even if love is one of the most beautiful things I know, dating wasn’t (which you can understand) my priority at all. Once I was done with the heavy treatment I found myself feeling completely lost. At first, I was feeling numb in both body and soul which made me think that maybe I wouldn’t be able to love someone again and I just assumed that I wouldn’t meet anyone or experience love again because of my luggage nor did I want to introduce cancer into the life of somebody else, it felt selfish. I mean, how do you even tell someone about cancer without scaring them away? Would anyone even consider being with me now?

What do I have to lose?

A while after treatment friends began offering to introduce me to dates, but I wasn’t ready, I didn’t feel comfortable, I felt like I had a big secret within that no one would accept. Then, 1 year after I finished treatment, out of the blue, I came across Michel. The first time I saw Michel was in a presentation of him, airing on television for a reality show called “Farmer seeks wife-Worldwide.” The commercial was about the possibility of writing a letter to him, and hopefully, getting a date with him. When I saw him in that short commercial something happened within me. A somewhat spark of hope lit up, a feeling I hadn’t felt for a very long time and especially had not felt during my cancer treatment.  I immediately knew that I needed to write a letter even if I didn’t know much about him, something I probably never would have done before experiencing the cancer rollercoaster. Just a couple of months earlier I was busy doubting myself and all of a sudden I found myself thinking  “what do I have to lose?” 

Meeting Michel

After sending my letter I received a phone call from the television company telling me that I was one amongst others that Michel wanted to meet with. Our first interaction was for 5 minutes, surrounded by producers and a camera crew, which felt kind of surreal and a very different way of having a first date, especially after having gone through cancer. The second time we met he invited me and 3 other girls to come spend some time in Mozambique. Before flying down to Mozambique I had what felt like a million doctor’s appointments. Mammography, scans, vaccinations and a session with my therapist, all helping me prepare for actually dating for the first time post-cancer, and on camera. Before packing my bags I decided that I wouldn’t tell him about my cancer straight away with the reason being that cancer doesn’t define me. If I were to stay I would tell him when the right moment was being presented and when I felt comfortable in sharing that part of me. I remember feeling frightened thinking about it and of the reaction he might have, afraid of being rejected because of what I had experienced.

First date after cancer treatment, in Farmer Seeks Wife Worldwide Sweden 2020
Talking about cancer with my new date

I was nervous to tell him about me having gone through cancer and I was trying to figure out when it would be appropriate to tell him. Once I was one of two girls remaining in the show I decided that now would be a good time. I told him, in my pace, in my way and he listened and took it really well as if it didn’t bother him at all. I felt good about it and the fact that cancer wasn’t going to stand in the way of the feelings we had developed for each other.
Now, a couple of months later, cancer isn’t something that gets in our way – it’s not always easy especially when being on anti-hormonal treatment due to cancer and still experiencing chemo brain on and off, but even though it has its challenges I am truly happy that I was brave enough to reshift my mindset of not allowing cancer to define me and not stand in the way of writing that letter.

A few tips, that I had in mind when dating post-cancer treatment: 
  • You are not obligated to tell anyone about going through cancer, if you’re not ready for it then don’t talk about it. It’s okay to date and tell someone along the road if that’s what’s comfortable for you.
  • Even if it’s hard to remind yourself, try to remember that cancer doesn’t define you. Meaning once you feel ready to date remember that you are not a patient who is dating, you are not broken and dating, you are a person who has gone through a difficult experience and dating. Life forced you to become stronger, even if it might not feel like it.
  • If you haven’t dated during or since cancer your self-confidence might not be peaking once you’ve decided to date again – remember that that is fine! What worked for me was to reconnect with myself, understanding that I am still me and of course spend some time before a date preparing “date outfits” which ‘new me’, post-cancer, would feel comfortable in. Don’t compare your post-cancer dating to pre-cancer dating, you are still you.
  • When you’re ready to talk openly about your feelings and what you’ve been through, it will allow your date to understand your story better and probably create a deeper bond between you and your date. If your date isn’t able to receive your story try and see that as a blessing – that person wasn’t ready for vulnerability, authenticity and a true connection. It’s really only dodging a bullet, early on!

To anyone here in the community thinking of dating post-cancer, what are your worries/concerns?

Love,
Linneá

Linnéa and Michel, now living together in Mozambique

Join the conversation in-app and connect with others through the War On Cancer in-app account where we will be talking more about dating during and after cancer treatment. 

The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health provider for questions regarding a medical condition, especially during the active period of Corona / Covid19. Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.  In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor, 112 or 911 immediately.

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