Navigating Dating Post Ovarian Cancer
Last updated: April 2023
After signing my life away on the surgical consent form to remove my tumor ASAP, I went home and contemplated all the questions. Would I ever be able to have kids? Would I be at risk for other reproductive health concerns? What will my life look like without a family? Would anyone even want me if I couldn't provide them with kids?
Luckily, I didn't need to have the answer to the last question yet because I was single at the time. Going through treatment without a significant other gave me some peace and extra time to grieve what I had lost without the ties of feeling guilty that my body had betrayed my partner.
My surgery went as well as it could have gone, given the circumstances. While my right ovary and fallopian tube had to be removed with the tumor, my team felt confident enough to leave me with a remaining ovary, fallopian tube, and my uterus.
Dating after cancer
I wasn't planning on dating after cancer, especially because I didn't know what my own future held. I felt a lot of guilt and anxiety surrounding building my life with someone for it all to come to a grievous halt. So, I went into society with cautious optimism and a huge wall up.
It was scary meeting someone new and feeling the need to warn them about what they were getting into. Some cancer survivors may be reluctant to share their story or diagnosis with a potential partner, but I liked to get it out of the way quickly so they would have time to run. When my current partner stayed despite it all, I knew we would have to have the "kid talk" sooner rather than later. But I wasn't sure what the outcome would be – I didn't yet have enough information.
Gathering fertility information
I knew I needed to enter this next stage of my life equipped with rationale and knowledge. I sought out a fertility specialist to examine my remaining ovary and what my chances of being able to conceive looked like. In vitro fertilization is still on the table as an option due to my circumstances. But the doctors are confident that I could get pregnant on my own with my remaining ovary and follicles.
Talking about the future
Sitting down and discussing what my partner and I wanted for our futures was necessary. Even though the results of my fertility appointment were positive, the conversation was not pretty at first. We both dreamed of having children and understood the uncertainty of recurrence and the surgical procedures I would need to undergo. My partner needed to take space to contemplate the "what ifs." I was angry at first because I felt I was being punished for something I couldn't control. Besides, the people I date are not entitled to know what internal organs I do or do not have. I get to decide when I share that with them, and when I do, I question whether I made the right decision.
However, cancer survivors deserve to be with someone who accepts the uncertainty of the future. Simultaneously, the other person deserves to make an educated decision on whether they can walk in this journey with us. At the end of the day, we deserve to be with someone who can accept all that comes with us. If we neglect to share information that may be the deciding factor in whether the individual wants to continue the relationship, then we are doing everyone a disservice.
Advice to young ovarian cancer survivors
So, my advice to young ovarian cancer survivors is to respect yourself and your own happiness. You deserve a life filled with joy and peace just as much as the next person. Treat your future with dignity and worth. Assert your values, dreams, and expectations to your potential partner on your own time so that you are protecting your vulnerability with your inherent resilience. Do not be afraid of the fear of others. You deserve strength in yourself and those around you. By choosing you, you will choose the best partner for you – in due time.
Do you have things that helped you cope through your ovarian cancer journey?