There Is Something I Need To Tell You
In my younger days, some of the hardest decisions that I had to make when dating were:
1) asking for a second date
2) snagging that first kiss, or not to
3) going for it
When it came to relationships, I have usually been up front and completely transparent. What you saw was what you got. I never pretended to be someone that I was not. When dating or committed to a relationship, it is almost always the same routine. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girls falls in love with boy. They have lots of fun, and then either get married or move on.
Most aspects of a relationship are obvious: looks, personality, status, etc. But what happens when you carry something that has the potential to scare a potential partner away? How and when do you tell someone that you are on a first date with, or would like to date that you had/have cancer?
My first wife found out that I had cancer when we were engaged. We went through the experience with each other. Though I offered her the chance to get out, she stayed. With the cancer behind me, our marriage lasted about nine more years. Under normal circumstances, beginning a social life in my mid-30′s, with a history of cancer, and side effects that would have to be recognized as it would impact any family plans with another significant other.
My current wife, Wendy, knew my cancer history before we dated. She knew that I had been cancer free for over ten years. She also knew that I would be unable to get her pregnant because of the one chemotherapy drug. We were co-workers and friends before we decided to pursue a more serious relationship. There was no awkwardness of “Hey, I had cancer” any more than the awkwardness of the first kiss. But had it not been for Wendy, I often wonder if I would have, or could have had another relationship.
But what if I had not made the decision to date Wendy? What if Wendy had made the decision not to date me? Admittedly, I was damaged goods. In fact, what if Wendy had known (note – I had no idea of my future health issues either) that I had the possibility of needing heart surgery because of my cancer treatments?
I have no intention of wanting to date again and be faced with having to tell someone “Hey, I had cancer, and now all this other stuff is happening like heart surgery and other issues.” Do I mention it before I ask someone out? Do I bring it up on the first date during dinner? Or is it pillow talk after I discover that she really likes me?
Cancer (and other health issues) does not define who we are. As a survivor I need to be accepted for who I am, not how I got here. It would make things much more complicated by keeping things a secret. Unless I would be planning on a platonic relationship, my shirt would eventually come off, revealing two six inches scars, one over my abdomen, and one over my chest. And I would probably be left with a lot of explaining to do why I waited until that moment to say “Hey, by the way…”