Cancer treatment, or even a cancer diagnosis itself, can strongly influence emotional and sexual relationships. Clearly there is a physical and psychological aftermath, which can affect maintaining or gaining new relationships. Yet, emotional support, intimacy and sexuality are cornerstones of your recovery and exploration of life beyond.
Being single, in dating circles, can be stressful and a big disappointment on average for everyone. This is magnified when cancer is or has been a part of your life. Many patients and survivors avoid dating for fear of rejection or as a consequence of depressive withdrawal. On the other side of the coin, men and women who have never faced cancer are thrown into an uneasy area of unknown territory when they date someone who has faced life threatening disease. They may be incapable of dealing with the uncertainties or are simply afraid due to lack of sophistication and understanding. You can still find people out there who are falsely afraid of cancer being contagious and other strange misconceptions.
Assuming you do enter the world of dating, when do you tell that special someone about your current or past situation? There is a balance between keeping something this important away from someone to the point of feeling insincere and blurting it out so early that it may scare someone off, before they get to know you as a potential significant partner. There is no blanket right answer that applies to everyone, but most would agree that it should be brought up before a serious relationship develops. Prior to that, especially if you are not looking for a serious relationship at the moment, in most cases it will likely put up an early wall and stop any relationship development dead in its tracks.
Here are some tips to start with:
If you are anxious about even the possibility of dating, retreat to your areas of comfort. Consider those activities or hobbies that you like and simply get involved for your own sake, not with the intent to find someone per se. Join a club, attend activities, or take a class in your area(s) of interest. It is more likely that you will find that special someone with mutual interests in this environment.
If you are a little more comfortable with the thought of embarking on new journeys, take a look inside for those things you have always wanted to do or try but have simply procrastinated or been a little uneasy about. As above, take a class or join a group that accepts newbies in whatever interest you are developing. Breaking through that barrier of inaction or fear can be releasing, invigorating and a confidence builder. The confidence you gain from stepping over that threshold may extend to striking up conversations and more in this new environment.
If you have physical signs of cancer, and are self-conscious about them, consider a specialty makeover. Either through the support of friends or professional assistance in this area, there are many things you can do to alter your appearance. Certain hairstyles, wigs, clothing, accessories may allow more comfort in your appearance than others. If you have the inclination, there are certainly surgical and medical options as well. This is not to imply in any way that you should be ashamed of any physical changes you may now have to live with. Rather, think of it as a way to not call attention too early to that which you perceive might set you apart, that which might bring that wall up that you are trying to avoid at the outset.
Don’t read into feelings and actions that are not reciprocated right away. Your sensitivity may be clouding your judgment about perceived rejection. Even without any life-altering diseases, everyone has likes and dislikes. The one you have your eyes set on may simply be not into you. After a little nudging, don’t be a pest, move on and don’t let it get to you.
If you get to the point of intimacy, and there are physical or emotional issues that might interfere with physical expression of intimacy, this might be the time to start considering open communication and sharing your situation. However, be aware that there are a lot of medical, surgical and psychological interventions available no matter what your situation is. If the sexuality of the relationship is intended to be more casual, the latter may be quite important. Talk with your doctor about your needs and that you are trying to get that part of your life on track. If intimacy is attached to the likelihood of a longer term relationship, open and complete communication is of paramount importance in building emotional trust and your intimacy comfort zone.
With regard to sexuality specifically, prepare to be the guide and the sexual lead no matter what your sex and what type of sexual relationship you are in. Your partner will not know that you strongly prefer certain sexual positions over others, perhaps due to pain or pleasure considerations. For men, there are certain maneuvers that help a semi-erect penis achieve vaginal penetration. Your partners will also not know that you may need more vaginal lubrication, specifically artificial lubrication, in order to be comfortable. In these and other ways, you may need to be a little more directive in what offers you the best satisfaction, and, even without any cancer diagnosis, this can be very erotic and sensual with the right partner.
Are you intrigued by all this, but still not comfortable to face the physical dating world, face to face? Well, in today’s digital world, there is an answer for you too. This answer may be a good start for those willing to venture forth at a faster pace as well, but in need of a kick-start. Online clubs, interactive classes, and dating sites are ubiquitous. The question is, which ones? With regard to clubs, travel, activities and the like, that one will have to be up to you. It can take a little research to find the right option amongst all that is available. There are a lot of cancer related chat-rooms and forums which you may also consider.