Guest blogger Lydia Brain shares her experiences dating during and after womb cancer and a hysterectomy at 24.
In November 2016, at 24 years young I was diagnosed with having an inflammatory myofibroblastomic tumour. I had just had a ‘fibroid’ removed from the inside of my uterus to find out it was something more sinister. This was one of two, the other was lodged deeper in the wall of my uterus, where from it unfortunately couldn’t be removed. I was put on a hormone treatment, Zolodex, to see if it could successfully shrink the tumour or at least halt its growth. Unfortunately after three months the tumour had grown and the treatment was unsuccessful. In June 2017 I had a total hysterectomy, with ovary preservation. No further treatment was needed, and I am now on three monthly scans.
There are so many ways cancer affects a person (physically and emotionally), and many of these symptoms and side effects can have an impact on any new or existing relationship. Changes to your body, depression and anxiety, fertility, all of these changes to your life can make dating a minefield. I’ve struggled with the internal battle of thinking that it isn’t a person’s place to know I had cancer and I am within my right to keep my personal life a secret. But that cancer is a large part of my life and is nothing to be ashamed of, so why would I keep it to myself? Both of these are true, so what do you do?
I would like the person sat across that table to want a second date with me, all of me, knowing who I am, with everything that entails. Yet, as always when on a first date, it’s a fine balance between not wanting to scare them off but not wanting to lie.
There is no one right answer, whatever you decide, just make sure it works for you. Do whatever causes you the least anxiety and makes you most at ease. However you decide to handle the situation, be 100% behind your decision. Be confident, be yourself, and be unapologetic! If and when you decide to broach your health, do so with your head held high. It is part of you, and a part you shouldn’t be ashamed of. It may come as a shock to some (or not, depending where you are with it all) but never worry too much about losing someone because they will take it badly. It is possible that some people may take it badly, but they do not deserve to date you! Plenty of lovely people will take it well, accept you for all you are and want to see you again, and these are the only people worth worrying about! So nothing to worry about right?!
So far my dating experience has been either with cancer, or recently post hysterectomy. After a lot of soul searching I decided I wouldn’t hide it or lie. This way, it just slips casually into conversation and I haven’t needed to do a big reveal. So far, it’s been going fairly well for me.
After a few days of texting it usually becomes pretty obvious I’m not working and I’m not on holiday either, and questions get asked. I’m sure the nonchalance is exaggerated in my head, and that on the other end of the phone people’s reactions to ‘oh just a hysterectomy… it was womb cancer’ are more extreme than I imagine. But more often than not it isn’t a problem. On the whole people are normally nice, understanding and kind, especially to people with cancer. Even if they aren’t, we are in Britain where everyone is generally too polite, socially awkward, or just doesn’t want to make a scene. Either way, the response is usually a few kind but vague pleasantries with very little questioning.
In fact, I am constantly being surprised by how well people take the news. Most with kind words and an open mind. So please don’t be too scared.
I’m now recovered from surgery, cancer free, and still single. I’m going to need to find a new tactic, because as time goes by my cancer isn’t going to casually drop into conversation anymore, and I do think any guy wanting to get serious with me should know that I don’t have a womb. I think I will just go along with the motions and see what feels right. I do know that whomever I am meant to be with will accept me for who I am, with everything that entails. Every trauma, every missing organ, and every scar.