How does someone with staqe 4 cancer find The One?
February 14, 2014 8:58 PM   Subscribe

I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in October at age 44. I'm single and as I always have, want someone solid and good in my life, but am concerned that my terminal diagnosis would make any rational, loving man I meet run for the hills. I'm still learning how to live with this disease and have no idea how to approach my status with someone new in my life without scaring the shit out of them. MeFi community, would you be my Valentine tonight and hope me that yes, it's possible that I could find someone to spend the rest of my life with, no matter how long or short a period that might be?

I'm finishing up a second cycle of chemo after a first that was a dramatic fiery hell with side effects, but made one tumor go away completely and reduced the others by a significant percentage (YAY!) The new drug I am on now is much better with only minor side effects thus far. I haven't lost my hair, but I did receive a fun blue wig as a present that I rock occasionally anyway. My scan results have been great so far, my spirit and energy and libido are coming back and I am starting to feel like me again, albeit with a new "fuck it" attitude and a lot less fear that I carried with me previously. After a lot of ongoing work and therapy to calm myself down, I like the person I am becoming through this tribulation so far.

Upon reflection, I realize that nobody comes with a guarantee, and if faced with deciding whether or not to embark on a relationship with a man in my situation, I'd probably take the chance on someone sufficiently spectacular. I've got a lot to offer the right person myself. There have to be men out there that believe the same, right? If so, how do I find them?

I've never been as accomplished a flirt as I would like to be, though I have been in several good long term relationships that originated online - when I jump into the dating pool, okcupid is generally where I start. I don't know how much luck I will have there now, though I will probably reactivate my profile when I feel ready. Where/how else should I think about trying to bump into men who might be able to deal with this situation?

So many questions. I'm not seeking permission from the internet to date (I will put out myself out there as soon as I feel physically capable of doing it) as much as I am looking for reassurance that there may be some guys out there that won't run screaming when I break this to them (success story anecdata especially appreciated), and some technical assistance on where to find them and how to share with them what I am going through. There is a voice in my head trying to convince me that real lasting love isn't going to happen for me in whatever time I have left, and I want to shut it down. Can you help me?
posted by deliciae to Human Relations (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think it is possible for you to find a solid, good man to share your life with. If I had advice I would certainly give it to you. I'm just replying to show you my support. Positive vibes/good wishes are going your way.
posted by Issithe at 9:13 PM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

As you noted, life has no guarantees. If you find someone you love and they love you back, then grab on with both hands for as long as you have. Anyone who'd take a pass on you because you're fighting cancer, is simply not a partner for you. (Doesn't make them a bad person, just makes them not a fit for you.)

For what it's worth, I do some work with a charity for blood cancers and I know of several people who found their partners during treatment. So yeah, it most definitely happens.
posted by 26.2 at 9:25 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tell that voice to pipe down. Seriously. ;-). You sound wonderful. Message me privately if you want support. I'm no expert in your life and struggle but I've done a lot of dating and would happy to cheer you on.

Best of luck, sweetie.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:27 PM on February 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Somehow the female portion of the population gets described as the "romantic" one, with the male portion... what, the ones who'd rather be watching football? The idea of romance wouldn't exist if there weren't people of all varieties who enjoyed it. The lovely thing about online dating is that you can weed out a lot of people who aren't really going to go for your life situation before you even speak to them. Have a good time, one way or another--maybe use the opportunity to go out and have experiences that you'll remember as being worthwhile even if a given date doesn't work out. (Activities are supposed to be really good for early dates, anyway, for getting-to-know-you purposes.) Good luck in every possible way.
posted by Sequence at 9:31 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you can meet someone! There is even a dating network for people with cancer. Google "cancer dating" and you'll find a pretty good amount of online support. Tell that voice to shut up.
posted by studioaudience at 9:31 PM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, you can absolutely meet someone. One of my absolute best friends met his first wife while we were still in school. She had cystic fibrosis and they both knew that she'd have a very limited lifetime. They had four years together before she passed - four good years, where they got married, bought a house, and they had a beautiful love together during that time.

After a few years of mourning, he honored her wishes and began dating again. His now-second wife knew his first wife, very well actually, and they honored First Wife's memory at their wedding. Now Wife is very open about how much she misses First Wife as a friend, and doesn't begrudge for a moment the life he had with First Wife, or the fact that if First Wife was still here that Now Wife would be with someone else.

I hope that second paragraph came across ok. What I'm trying to say is, there are definitely people out there who can and will love even in the face of an uncertain future. And that sometimes love works in these really beautiful ways and no one really knows how their story will end until they get there.
posted by RogueTech at 10:04 PM on February 14, 2014 [21 favorites]

I've mentioned here before the story of my dear friend who received a terminal diagnosis with a vague timeframe attached. She went on to meet lovely guy and they were still together eight years later when she passed. She was awesome and so was he.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:23 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Male here: I wouldn't run screaming. Different people have different fears about illness. Some are quite uncomfortable to be around it, some are inclined to a caretaking role, some follow your lead on when to care and when to ignore it. Men come in all sorts; I'm currently dating a woman with a major chronic disease, and I seem to react to it by caretaking.

I'd recommend you be upfront about it though, since it's a big part of your life and you'll want to weed out the uncomfortable ones early.
posted by ead at 11:32 PM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

It is with great joy to answer this question.

I was that man for my partner.

In 2002, I read an article in a local alternative newspaper had an article about a UCLA phyicist who recorded the sounds that cells made. Thought this was the coolest thing in the world and right up my yoga alley. I contacted him and said that though I did not have a venue or audience for him yet I wanted to sponsor an event with him. He said was down with that and to contact him when I was ready

3 years later I began working the Hollywood Farmer's Market. The first day I was there I saw this woman walking along the street like she owned it and wearing this fabulous hat. I acknowledged it and her immediately. She responded back just as fast. We got to know each other as she was an incredible chef and every now and then would buy the milk I was selling. It also turns out that she was a successful realtor, horse woman, welder, forest ranger, galley cook and more. I would see her off and on at the market over the next four years. Later she told me that at least 3 times she left her business card on the table for me. I am a bonehead when it comes to a woman's hint and didn't pick up on it.

4 years later. It is now October, 2009. Renee stops by the stand and we begin to chat. This time in length. I had heard and seen some of the TED talks. She told me that she had a community version of that called TEDx. I was intrigued and asked her to tell me more. She explained that she had just had a talk at her house and was interested in doing another one. This was was entitled "Music + Physics = Good Vibrations"

"I have the music but I don't have the physics"

"Well guess what, Renee. I do. Let me contact Jim and see if I can get him on board"

I did. He said yes. Renee then asked me if I would help her produce the event. I agreed. I would go over to her house to work. We never got anything done except talk with each other. The event was coming together so quickly that we really didn't have to worry about it. So we would talk and enjoy each others company and presence. At one point she mentioned that she had been diagnosed with Merkel Cel Carcinoma early in the year.cancer early in the year and felt positive that it was in remission.

Renee wanted to take me to see what a TEDx event was like on December 9. My birthday is December 10. I decided that year I decided I wanted to have a week long non-static Universe birthday party. Wherever you would find me that was where the party would take place. Along with the invitations I sent out a list of what I wanted for gifts: 501 Levis, gift certificates to restaurants etc. I also said, "Sloppy wet kisses and lipstick stains on my collar" I went with Renee to the TEDx event that December 9. Afterwards as we stood by the door of my car, she pulled me into her, said "here is your gift" and planted a kiss right on my lips.

The TEDx event was going to be January 23. Renee told me later that that night she made a vow that we would not do anything until after the event. 4 days later we were in bed.

That week she went in for her tests.

On December 24, she told me that her cancer had metasticized.

For a moment I really didn't know what to do. The length of life for someone who has Merkel Cel is three years. Because it is a rare cancer there has been little research done on it and hardly any treatment. I did have the option of backing out then and there with no hard feeling. I also was aware of how quickly this relationship came together, how wonderful it was to be this lovely woman and because of that it would be crazy to step out. I had been with a woman who had breast cancer and learned a great deal from it. At the moment I made the decision to stay, I took 3 vows...

1) To take everything day to day.
2) To stay out of her way
3) To hold her every night as I felt that this was where true healing came from.

I have had spontaneous healing events in the past where I would wake in the middle of the night and find my hands on partner literally running energy into her body. I struggled with that for many years as I could not come to terms with death. If I do healing work on someone and they die, does that mean failure? The only thing that was clear to me was that if there was a Jesus, he did not heal by technique. He just touched.

Renee began her treatment in January, 2010. The Music/Vibrations event was a success. I held her every night. We had sex every night. We spooned all night long. ALL NIGHT LONG! :)
I would spoon her. Then when I would turn she would spoon me.

By early February, she found out that the chemo wasn't working and decided to go an alternative route. She said she wanted to meet my friends. She asked me if I wanted money or her house. I didn't want to hear that. At another point she asked if I would be willing to marry her. It was too much for me to think of.

One night I woke to go to the bathroom. I looked at her and the answer to my healing question arrived. We are healing whether we are living or dying. We are expanding whether we are living or dying. At that moment I felt that this is what Jesus was all about. And why he got crucified.

Around this time I received an e-mail from a close friend of her's. He said Renee was a woman who had everything. But she didn't have a man. The fact that you came into her life the time that you did is a miracle :)

She told me she wanted to be help in her arms when she left and that she wanted her body washed afterwards.

On taking a trip to Mexico for treatment I found her having a seizure as she was driving. We went to the ER where she had a catscan done. It turns out their were tumors in her brain. The doc said she should begin thinking of quality of life. On getting back to LA other doctors convinced her that she should go back on treatment. While doing so, she also began wrapping up her estate with the help of very close friends. By now I was fed up with the doctors. I vowed that I would also walk into her room full of light and hold her everytime. I would climb into bed, sit behind her, lean her body into mine and cradle her with her arms. Her doctor didn't know what to think of this.

She went home and continued her treatments. She had up to then only met 2 friends of mine. I was with her around the clock. Someone asked me how can you do all this. For me it was second nature "This is what you do for someone you love" I rewrote "Hail Mary" and whispered it into her ear as she slept. It was the first time in my life that I really felt like a man. Someone asked me what time I thought I was at my best. That was it. The core group around her were also incredible. Everyone played to their strengths and while all of us were struggling with our emotions are actions and response to need were pretty seamless.

Hospice came in Sunday evening. By Wednesday she had gone to sleep. Thursday, Friday and Saturday she went to the threshold. The core group was there throughout. I would continue to whisper Mary' prayer in her ears and telling her it was ok to go.

Renee left her body on Sunday, May 16, 2010. We were together for 5 months.

We carried her out to her beautiful back yard and lay her on the table. I led a ceremony in the Native American tradition. We undressed her, bathed her, dressed her, covered her with flower petals and left her wearing one of her favorite hats.

I have 2 close friends that Renee never met and the friends had no idea of what she looked like. Renee visited them in their dream. She made her presence felt to the first girlfriend I had after passing. One time for almost an hour. She would french kiss me a lot in the first year after she left, and sporadically since then. She appears in my dreams and every now and then I feel myself reach out to her. It is all lovely though my friend was pretty spooked by the long visit.

She left me her estate. Because of that I was able to take time off to figure out what I wanted to do. Our TEDx group is still going. And I am now in the process of starting a men's fashion line with a portion of the proceeds going to funding Merkel Cel research.

What I learned from Renee was that a home is important. That you should live where you are. That's a little different than living in the moment. It more like living with your gifts as they are given to you and as you receive them

This was a movie. A beautiful love story. I had a life before her. And I now I have this beautiful life after her.

I can't tell you how pleased I am to share this with you. To let you know that you are not alone. And that a lovely, vibrant, beautiful woman's dream came true.

I leave you with a poem I wrote for today.

xoxox - Maurice and Renee

Good Friend’s Balm For a Lonely Heart

It’s the day of the heart
I see yours does look broken
It could be a lot worse
If you lived in Hoboken

Today’s sun does shine fair
And the pixies are wild
Pagan spirits abound
So be sweetly beguiled

You can dance. You can sing.
Recite poetry too.
You can laugh and be hearty.
And drink the witches brew

“Witches brew?” You do say.
“This is Halloween not.
You’ve gone such off the track
Soon we’ll be in a spot.”

“Many witches abound
Not from Halloween. BOO!
They’re for birthdays and Christmas
And Valen’tine’s Day too”.

“So breathe deep, my Dear Heart .
Do relax. Do enjoy.
Smile to a good many.
Whether girl or whether boy!”

“And if heart lonely be
Oh, please do have your feeling.
In many ways are you loved
And with that comes joy healing

And then when your heart’s full
Spirit pixie are you
Sprinkle dust here and there.
Your heart soon will be true.

So good deed has been done.
Full Heart’s found a Good Friend
As they big hug each other
Do say “Yes” and “Amen!”
posted by goalyeehah at 11:44 PM on February 14, 2014 [94 favorites]

I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in October at age 44.

I'm so sorry. Metastatic bc has a less desirable prognosis, but it is by no means certain.

But you do pose an interesting question: how the hell do you meet someone who can also understand what you are going through?

I don't know, but I think you need to limit the scope of your efforts. Maybe you shouldn't look at general sites like okcupid...

Is there any way for you to involved in a community (emotional support, fundraising, event planning, non-profits), which would allow you to come in contact with:

1. People you do not know yet.
2. People who understand what you would be going through.
3. People who are social and friendly.

Good luck, I'm rooting for you.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:52 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry you're going through this but glad to hear that treatments are going well!

I can't help but wonder, and maybe you've considered this, but a man who is in a similar situation as you are certainly would understand what you're going through. I know that cancer is a tough battle so I am sure support groups for people dealing with it would welcome you with open arms. Yes, dating a man who also has cancer would be complicated in other ways, but leaving that possibility aside, it might be nice to talk to some people who really understand your situation.

But I think you sound pretty rad and I don't think someone who finds you special would decide they'd rather "not bother." I think your "fuck it" attitude you say you've gained can only help you put yourself out there and meet people. In that sense, maybe you can view it as a liberating thing. Strike up conversations, go out and meet people and live the life you've got. You sound very strong and I know there are absolutely men who can and will appreciate that.

Wishing you the best of luck and a big hug through the tubes of the internet. :)
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:59 AM on February 15, 2014

goalyeehah I wish I could favorite your post a thousand times.
posted by zia at 2:01 AM on February 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

Good morning! I feel you, big time, and here's my internet hugz ((u)).

I am gonna buck the tide a bit, from my bc vantage point. I was first dx'd at your age, local, and have had local recurrence 4x (!) until unlucky #5. I'm 58 years old, single, date-able with interest coming my way, grown kids, have had men in my life for most of my life but made a conscious decision to be alone for one year to write a book (and did, yay, in the second draft) and of course at the end of that lovely single year: stage IV, mets to my poor bones.

May I gently suggest you examine the phrase "terminal diagnosis"? Every life has an end, you are just fortunate enough (I mean that) to be able to latch on to the way you think yours will go, and you now know the landscape of the disease and treatment. So the terror some people have about death, you really kind of don't have. You get it. You are there. And by the way, you might get flattened by a bus tomorrow, or have a heart attack. Right? Cancer is not an innoculation against dying some other way. So forget the terminal disease thing.

Here is your number one ace in the hole: You are on the dark side, and you will find your light and live your life -- and unsick people don't really believe that is possible. You really really will! You will be more in the moment than anyone you know. You will not sweat the small stuff. All the cliches, all the Buddhist behaviors you wish you could project in every situation will become available to you. That's also the downside when it comes to dating.

In my experience, most men -- not all, ok, fine, needle/haystack -- immediately throw you up on the pedestal. You have a Fatal Disease. You are Inspirational. You are a Superhero. Me, I HATE ALL THAT as it sounds very unsexy to me! I'm still me, doing me as best I can with a crappy feature (not a bug). Also, sorry men, but the men I tell my dx to (not on dates!) are slightly squeamish about breast cancer (unless they've had it in their family), they react differently than women. They get the Sad Eyes/Bewildered Face, and that is another hard thing to overcome, for me. I immediately want to make THEM feel better, and then it becomes a Topic.

So, the point is, if you can meet under circumstances that are absolutely removed from bc and you can keep your dx to yourself (hard when you have no hair, I know) until you suss out the situation -- basically, is this guy gonna genuflect when he hears I have a chronic disease (which, by the way, is very very serious but honestly, not as dramatic as those on the outside make it out to be, right?) or is he more of a life-sucks-but-love-can-save-the-day kind of guy, with maybe his own life experience that he draws on? That gives him insight past your disease. Sure, they must be out there, but wow, hard to find. Hard to find.

I would caution you on a couple of fronts: you don't need to meet a man with cancer, that sounds like No Fun to me, and you need to be a heat-seeking missile for FUN. Who wants to have this effing disease central to their existence? You want to get your treatment and get back to your life. I would not want to go home to more sickness. Next, don't pour it all out immediately when you meet someone, even though that is your impulse, even though that seems Fair and Honest. You are entitled to your private medical condition, you have no obligation to share with a stranger, and you should only share with someone with whom you feel comfortable and safe. This is your life, but more importantly, this is YOUR DAY. Today. You only owe the truth to people who already love you!!

Cultivate your interests, your family, your friends. Go date online when you feel like YOU, not like YOU STAGE IV. You will get there, for sure. I love you already, so memail me! Come to NYC, I will be your wing man, we can freak them out together. We will toast like dames to stupid Stage IV. We are still women and we still will have sex, and go to work and dance and turn the music up loud etc etc).

My final little word: I'm getting a tattoo: WWWWD? What Would Walter White Do? 'Cause he accomplished a helluvalot in Stage IV.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:07 AM on February 15, 2014 [14 favorites]

Apologies for grammatical slips. i was writing late at night.
posted by goalyeehah at 6:07 AM on February 15, 2014

I definitely think that it is entirely possible for you to find a life partner while having stage 4 cancer. People who are worth your while will stay. You have the magic superpower of making the other ones disappear. And what you're left with are people who see you for you and not your diagnosis or prognosis and just want to enjoy the now with you until there's no more now left.

There's no guarantees in life either good or bad, but I'm rooting for you with your treatment and your love life. Good luck! Don't hold back. Say what you feel. Go for what you want.
posted by inturnaround at 6:09 AM on February 15, 2014

You're amazing--it's been said repeatedly, and well, for a reason here.

That being said, as a (slightly) younger person, I would want to know up front if someone is navigating a life-altering and severe illness, no matter how beautifully, if you were online, and would feel lied to if that was not mentioned to me by the second in-person meeting. This isn't cancer-ist: I'd feel the same way about disclosing children from first marriages, wheelchairs or other assistive devices, still living with a parent, etc. (none of those have been a dealbreaker for me, btw--but they are huge parts of who you are on a daily basis and frankly it would be odd to not mention them fairly early on).

You don't have to put it straight up in your profile (though it might weed out those who won't be worth your time), and you don't even have to use the term "stage 4" right away--that's too scary and conjures up horrifying stereotypes. Instead, in those first messages or that first or second (very latest) meeting, instead of using the jargon, describe your day to day life and joys and hopes and activities and dreams in between the obvious: what does a day look like? "I go to chemo in the mornings, and then work/write/volunteer/etc. I feel more fatigued some days, but still love to do X." How you describe yourself/your life above is so much less alarming than "stage 4 cancer."

All of this means that it might be even easier to meet someone in person, where this will all flow out organically after you've already had the ability to charm and attract with your style, personality, warmth, energy, passions, etc. If you've never been an "accomplished flirt," why not take the chance to practice?
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:24 AM on February 15, 2014

Just saying that, as a male, this news would give me pause, but it wouldn't be a deal-breaker by any stretch if all other lights were green. I've seen enough friends die young to know that absolutely none of us have any idea how much time we have anyway.
posted by dg at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I bet you could probably find a nice single man in your same situation at cancer support group meeting. I hope you and he find each other and make each other very happy.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:48 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the bottom of my heart, thanks for all the good vibes from everybody who reached out here or to me directly. I wanted to share two fantastic updates since this post.

First, the course of chemo I was going through when I posted this question greatly reduced the cancer, and I am feeling a million times better right now. It's still stage 4 but no one is using the word terminal anymore so I will take it!

The other is that a few months ago, I reconnected with a gentleman I had met briefly a few years ago, and we are now in a lovely relationship together, more than a little stupid for one another. :) He reached out when he heard through a mutual friend what I had been going through, so I didn't even have to tell him what was up with me - and, he's dated two other women in similar circumstances before, so none of my situation seems to be scaring him. He's solid and relaxed and exactly the type of person I'd hoped to meet, and we're both delighted with the unexpected way things have worked out.

Between posting my question and this excellent new romantic development, I carried many of your thoughts with me. In real life, you don't know me and vice versa, but those of you that chimed in and offered your support got me through some very real low times, and I'm deeply grateful for your help. MeFi4Eva!
posted by deliciae at 11:06 AM on September 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh my! Thanks for this wonderful update!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:10 AM on September 8, 2014

YES! YES! YES!. My cheeks are hurting from smiling so hard. Blessed be, dear one. And keep on keeping on :)
posted by goalyeehah at 12:24 AM on September 16, 2014

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