Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dating With Terminal Cancer: ‘Life Is Short. Wish Me Luck!’

After a gruelling couple of years following a terminal cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, guest writer Kelly Hutton is ready to start dating again. As she says, none of us are guaranteed a happy ending but that shouldn’t stop us from putting ourselves out there when it comes to love.

When it comes to being single, I’ve had a lifetime of experience. I slogged my way to 45 to become what some might refer to as a middle aged unicorn – single, never engaged, never married, no kids. But happy.

I’ve had the pitying looks, the “your time will come” assurances, the “what’s actually wrong with her” sideways glances. I can assure you I’m not picky, I’m trying hard enough and I haven’t got my walls up. I’ve put myself out there on dating apps, blind dates, speed dating nights and said yes to pretty much every social invitation offered to me for a solid 30 years. 

I’ve lived and worked internationally, played a ton of sport, have a wide circle of friends and am lucky enough to have some incredible male relationships in my life. I just haven’t met the “one” and am reluctant to settle for anyone who doesn’t bring out the best in me. But I’ve always been relaxed about it. I guess deep down I’m a hopeless romantic and, despite the fact that my biological clock was no longer ticking but chiming in my ear, I was always confident that one day I’d meet the man of my dreams and it would prove the wait was worth it.

And then I was diagnosed with advanced Ovarian Cancer and given two years to live. 

A full hysterectomy within months of diagnosis finally extinguished any small remaining chance I had of having kids and six rounds of chemo left me weak, exhausted and facing someone in the mirror I didn’t recognise. Deathly pale with no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes, I looked like my face had been rubbed out and all hints of joy and expression removed. My body shape changed so much due to the impacts of surgical menopause, steroids and an inability to exercise that, as it softened and expanded, my clothes no longer fit and became increasingly uncomfortable. 

If I’d been single before cancer when I was in my prime, who was ever going to want my damaged goods now?

Whilst I outwardly remained positive and my priority was always doing everything I could to get through treatment, my overall confidence was in the basement and I slowly withdrew myself from social situations which were already limited due to my declining health.

And it led me to ask myself: if I’d been single before cancer when I was in my prime, who was ever going to want my damaged goods now?

Two years on and I’ve outlived that initial, devastating prognosis; although the cancer has since recurred and is now deemed incurable. It will recur again. But whilst statistically my chances of being here in five years time continue to decrease, I’m currently cancer free and heading back to work. My hair has grown back and, with it, my confidence. I feel more like pre-cancer me than ever before and increasingly optimistic that maybe, just maybe, I might be one of the lucky ones to defy statistics and stick around for another 10 years. Or more.

So with this renewed confidence, do I dive back into the dating pool?

Is it fair to actively seek out a relationship knowing full well a potential partner might find themselves dealing with my cancer, chemo and all the other unpleasant things that go with it? Am I upfront early on about my life with incurable cancer or do I withhold my story until I know there might actually be a potential relationship?

Can I cope with the ghosting or rejection if someone decides they don’t want to move forward with someone dealing with a chronic health issue?

Is it worth putting myself out there when I’ve already made it successfully through life this far on my own?

If a potential partner can’t handle your uncertain future, then they probably aren’t right for you anyway.

I’ve asked around and, whilst I’d originally thought I’d be selfish to do so, the resounding answer has consistently been YES. Dive in and test the waters. Go for it. What have you got to lose? If a potential partner can’t handle your uncertain future, then they probably aren’t right for you anyway.

Ultimately, none of us know what’s around the corner in any relationship. So why deny myself opportunities to meet someone who might be willingly all-in to support me through whatever life might have in store? Even when I know it’s highly unlikely we will end up growing old together.

So I’ll dip a toe back in. I know I’ll be OK on my own but who knows who is out there and what adventures might be had.

Because we all deserve a chance at love – no matter how long that might last… right?

Life is short – wish me luck.

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