Just before I was diagnosed, I went on the worst date ever. The gentleman had a position of power in Washington, D.C., and over coffee, he proceeded to tell me that fact in great detail.
For an hour.
It was as if he was on a job interview. The stories were self-congratulatory. I had to stop myself from replying, at key points, "You're hired." The date was excruciating. It was shortly after this night that I was diagnosed with cancer, a situation not conducive to dating.
But still, I had a new goal. One decent date. Just one. The dating didn't have to go anywhere. One date was a simple goal. Highly achievable. I spent over a year in nasty treatment and couldn’t even think of dating. I finally met Mr. Decent Date two years after diagnosis. I spent a pleasant evening, and felt success. Although we parted ways, I had achieved my goal.
So why didn't I stop there? I only wanted one date. I could sit back and relax, and not bother with annoying boys. But you know how humans are. Get a little of something, and you want more.
I had a new goal. Have sex. I told a friend I wanted to have sex at least one more time before I left this mortal coil. I was on to another achievable goal, you would think. But not necessarily so. I am not wired for sports sex. If I could emotionally tolerate one-night stands, life would be much simpler. Go to a bar, meet a guy, take him home, have my way with him. Sigh. If only it were so. But, no. I want a man I care about and who cares about me. Sounds like a relationship, right? It is. There goes that easily-achievable goal. I wanted to meet a nice man. Nothing fancy. Nothing dreamlike. Just a pleasant guy with whom I could have sex.
Dating in the Washington, DC area is not easy. There are lots of young people here and men my age want to date younger women. Even when they aren't dating younger women, these men seem to hold older women to the same body standards. I am no longer 25. I am 50. Finding a man who appreciates me in DC can be a challenge.
Then add the fact that I have stage 4 breast cancer, and the situation becomes even more complicated. How was I going to find a nice guy who liked me just as I was and would be okay with dating someone with a serious health issue? I was willing to lower my standards. No need for perfection. Just someone decent was fine with me.
But then I met Jeff.
I had rejoined Match.com. As happened in the past, I didn't get many responses. I am older than I think this audience wants and certainly larger (size 18). After a while, I called it a day and planned to cancel the membership. Then I got an email from what seemed to be a very nice gentleman, I wasn't expecting anything, so I figured what did I have to lose? I answered the email. We began emailing back and forth, and after several emails, we agreed to meet.
We met at a coffee shop. When Jeff first saw me I didn’t think he was attracted to me. He showed no reaction of pleasure. But he was good company, and we talked for almost 4 hours. Jeff was incredibly funny and my gut told me this was a nice guy. Still, I didn't think Jeff was attracted, so I figured that was our final date. I was surprised when he asked me out again. Since the coffee shop, Jeff has made it clear that not only is he very attracted, but he loves spending time with me. We've been out several times. I really like him. I apparently am dating someone far above my original, I'll-settle-for-anyone-basically-nice expectations.
Multiple hurdles cleared. A witty guy is attracted to me. That alone is a miracle. But there is the hurdle of cancer. How do I tell a very sweet man he is dating someone who has cancer that has spread and is only kept in check with chemo and constant care? What are the words? Would he run?
I turned to my support community for advice. The best advice came from Rochelle Shoretz from Sharsheret, an organization supporting Jewish women with breast and ovarian cancer. Rochelle also has stage 4 breast cancer and married a man she met after diagnosis. Her advice was to talk about the cancer once conversations turned more personal and let him ask questions. The key would be to feed information to him bit by bit, rather than as one overwhelming chunk.
I started saying I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and I waited for questions. As predicted, Jeff asked if I was OK now. I told him I was stable, but need continuing treatment. What kind of treatment? Targeted chemotherapy. Jeff thanked me, and I replied I planned to tell him, but was hesitant because I wasn't sure he'd want to see me anymore. His answer? "Can I see you again?"
I was shocked. He was so accepting, and still wanted to see me. So we've continued to date, just like normal couples do. I get to date a nice, funny man who digs me and whom I dig in return. And if this continues, I will have sex again. I went into dating after cancer with one goal, a decent date, and I got far more than I ever dreamed. The key at this point is to enjoy one date at a time. Relish it. Soak it in. Bask. Don’t focus on and what might happen. As heard once, "the trick is to find a man who adores you and then let him." I set out to find a date and found adoration. Now I just hope I have the smarts to let him.