I am going to be upfront about this. Cancer is a great way to weed out the duffs. To sift the men from the boys. It really reveals what type of partner you have and the true nature of your relationship. Granted, it might be a little radical as a strategy of choice. But as I had always been a bit of a beacon for dysfunctional men, I am more than a little happy with my experiment!
So here goes.
After a long period of hibernation courtesy of my oncologist, I decided it might be nice to trust the male species again and go on the odd date... But when I wondered, is it the right time to lob cancer into the conversation? Too early and I appear needy. Too late and I run the risk of falling too deep before being rejected and wishing I had protected myself earlier by shaking out the "It's not you, it's me" specimens!
So let me give you both examples of my dating experiences after cancer.
It seems the sensible advice out there in twitter land recommends date three to be about the right time to sidle up to the subject. But what I discovered is that I am still attracted, despite my acupuncturist best efforts, to doing things at dizzying speeds. And even with my newfound wisdom and assertions that I didn't need a full on relationship again, I realised I didn't do semi detached very well either.
So meet the one that wasn't the one, man number one; after lots of banter and seemingly plenty in common, I judged it about right to throw in the c word. It was a tense moment. Whichever way I tried to introduce it into the conversation it felt clumsy and contrived. So I played it down. I emphasised that I was healthy now. I didn't even mention bowels! But despite assurances that it did not 'freak him out' the lack of questions and the speed in which he left was enough of a sign that this was the last I would see of him. And it turned out to be the last I heard from him as well! He had calculated his return on his emotional investment and obviously found it worthless.
And if I hear you collectively shout "Ah, but you haven't met the right bloke yet" you would of course have been right. It turns out I got conned by a cad. I know that. You know that. But there was more..
Man number two... the one.
I met the one when I was in remission the first time around. He was very kind. He seemed different. And he had a VERY NICE FACE. I calculated he could take it earlier. And so I lobbed it into his wine glass on date two.
He was utterly wonderful and restored my faith in men.
Six weeks later and we were still going strong. And then I relapsed. This wasn't in the calendar or my to do lists. I gave him the chance to scarper. Of course he didn't. He stayed through everything that has been thrown at me since (liver operations and various complications and endless scans), showing gentleness, compassion and extreme love.
He is very precious and we are getting married. You can all breathe a sigh of relief now. I am very happy. I didn't need a research study (yes there is one from oncology research) to tell me that couples who deal with things like cancer together become even closer. But it was nice to read that married people live 20% longer so we had better get on with it!
It seems another world since last summer when after two operations and yet more holes in my body, John (as this is his name) wistfully remarked "Didn't dating used to be a lot easier than this?" And then wheeled me out of the John Radcliffe for what I hope was the last time.
I think he may well have been right.