My experiences with love and cancer
N.B. I started writing this blog on 7th February. I'm not quite sure what happened - dissertation and other barriers got in the way, but now I am finally ready to finish writing this very scary blog! Just going to keep the start I wrote all those weeks ago, no matter how irrelevant it now is.
With Valentine's day coming up (not a day I particularly buy into, but an excuse for a blog if nothing else) I thought it a good time to be vulnerable (aahhhh!!) and talk about a very personal topic, and open up about love, dating and relationships with an illness such as cancer. I get pretty raw here so- be nice, please!
My case may be (/is!) unique and different to many others', but everybody's cancer story is different and everybody's love-life is different, so that's not going to stop me writing about it.
When I was diagnosed with cancer/throughout the diagnosis process I was with someone. I was 18, and had been with them (all be it slightly on-and-off) for about 1.5 years. To create a little timeline for you, I was diagnosed Thursday, by the Friday we'd had an argument (how?!) over my diagnosis, I was home with my parents by Sunday morning and Monday I was in hospital having surgery. By the next Saturday we'd broken up.
Needless to say, it was a very emotionally-wrought (don't even get me started on the biggest drama-queen moment of my life, even if it was called for!), painful, scary, horrible horrible week and a bit. Probably the worst so far. Although cancer was the trigger for our break-up, I have to be clear that it had been brewing for a while; my diagnosis and the way he dealt with it was the trigger for the split, giving me the push I needed to end the relationship, doubtless for the benefit of us both.
However, the experience was hurtful and isolating. My partner was the one person I wanted with me at the most scary time of my life. I needed comfort and support, I was surrounded by my family but I wanted the person I felt closest to, and unfortunately they couldn't be there. I spent the nights in the hospital crying over the fact that he wasn't there, and that I was scared and alone, having never been in hospital over night before. I believe this shows the true difficulty of cancer, particularly for young people, for whom it is very new and unlike anything a lot of young people have had to experience before.
Many many people lose close friends because of cancer. Cancer is difficult to deal with. It's hard to accept, and it's hard to see loved ones go through gruelling treatments, surgeries, experience heartbreak and grieve for the life they've lost (as we all know life is never the same after cancer). Yes, it is hard for the patient going through it, but it is also so so hard for people close to you to watch on the sidelines, not able to help, take away the pain and make it all better.
Unfortunately, my first experience of love and cancer was bad. Plain crappy. For ages I felt it was my fault for the breakdown of the relationship, and I hated cancer for making me hard to be around. It made me feel like people wouldn't want to be my friend or be close to me anymore because it would be too hurtful or 'depressing' for them. I was scared for a while to get into another relationship because I didn't want to hurt anyone else as a result of my disease, I didn't think anyone else should have to go through what my current family and friends have to.
Humans, however, are very adaptable. It didn't take me too long to shake off some of those feelings (which still crop up occasionally but can be nicely pushed aside and fought off), and I think I was lucky to find a kind, loving enough person to open up to and trust with my disease.
My current boyfriend has always known about my cancer, there was no hiding it. So, the fact that he liked me regardless should have been enough of an indication that it was safe to be with him, but still there was a barrier. I didn't want to burden him, and I didn't believe he truly understood what dating a sick person really meant. Eventually, love pulled us together (ewwwwwwww!!!!), and I managed to ignore cancer, my good health kindof helping with that!
When I received the news of the spread to my lungs, and later the spread to my bone, my boyfriend wasn't with me. Telling him over the phone was the worst, I was terrified about how he would react. Delivering bad news is never easy, but telling the person you love over the phone that your cancer has come back and you don't yet know the extent or danger of it, well, that hurts, and is scary. Luckily, he was incredibly supportive, and came to see me as soon as he could, and let me moan aaallll I liked. I cried, and cried and cried, and he listened. I let the negative thoughts creep back in, and I told him that if he wanted to leave now, he could. I thought he deserved a 'normal' relationship, and at least have hope that he could live a full life with a healthy person. It just wasn't right that I was 19 and already this sick. I couldn't imagine why on earth he'd want to stay with me after this bad news. NEVER SAY THINK THAT!! I was silly, but I was scared, and I suppose it was good to be honest. We were both hurt, but luckily stayed together (phew, he didn't listen to my CRAZY suggestions!). I most certainly do not think that way any more. Everyone deserves to be happy and be loved, no matter their situation.
I have been so so lucky to have found someone so soon who understands, who will visit me in hospital and come to appointments with me, hold my hand and listen to me ramble about cancer sometimes for hours on end.
I can't give much advice in terms of dating with cancer. But from what I have learned, honesty is the best policy. Be transparent. Because, if someone has doubts about being with you because you have cancer - they're not right! Thank u, next.
You need someone who will love you, unconditionally. Cancer, chronic and debilitating illnesses, natural disasters, accidents etc. can happen at any time. It's not just old people that get sick. By being honest from the start, you'll be able to sift out the gooduns from the badduns. Obviously, opening up about your diagnosis isn't always easy, and now it often takes me months and months to tell new people about my cancer, and still when I tell new people I get so so terrified they'll freak out and not know what to say - I HATE making people feel awkward. But, if you are dating, then that is the best advice I can give. Also, to just f*** the haters! There will be people that can't handle cancer, don't let that make you feel isolated, sad, strange, whatever, you should feel empowered, because you are going through something awful and (I'm certain), slaying it. People who are scared of things like cancer need to face their fears and understand why they are, it may not be their fault - but we simply don't have time for them in our lives!!!
Also, you need to sift out those people who are going to nag you every day about how much turmeric and CBD oil you should taking to cure you - being around that kind of talk all the time is exhausting (even if there is a hint of truth in these remedies).
In sum, love can be tricky at the best of times, but throwing something like cancer in there can really change things. It can show people's true colours - whether they be terrible or lovely. Dating, opening up, finding the right people to support you through the tricky periods and people who will love you despite your scars, lack of hair, tubes etc - it's all very very hard. More should be done to help and support cancer patients through love, relationships and dating, as it is such a core part of life, and life doesn't just stop when you are diagnosed.
That's me over and out.
Thanks for reading and I hope it gave you some food for thought- I would love to hear some of your experiences or thoughts on the matter in the comments/ on facebook/through instagram and whatnot!!