Dating with disease

Dating is no picnic. And dating with a disease –  for instance, breast cancer, which took both my hair and my boobs — is practically impossible.  But I’m hardly the only single out there trying to find a bit of romance while saddled with a disease or disability. 

Yesterday, Salon published a great essay by Meghan Holohan on the trials and tribulations of dating with narcolepsy, a condition that causes her to pass out whenever she experiences an intense emotion, like, say, an attraction for the opposite sex. Something she discovered in sixth grade, when she passed out on top of the cutest boy in class.  Check it out:

I was in sixth grade in Catholic school when I began fainting. I was a lanky, clumsy 12-year-old with a mouthful of braces and big plastic glasses, enamored with an Irish boy named Liam Brady. All the girls had a secret crush on him — brown hair, bright blue eyes and milky skin.

As we stood in line for Communion, inching forward, hands folded, I heard a ringing and my limbs became heavy; it took a Herculean effort to move. A blush flooded my face, and then I couldn’t see. Everything turned black and bright lights shot at me like I was going warp speed on the Starship Enterprise. The next thing I knew I was lying in the lap of Mrs. Tupper, an eighth grade teacher who lived a block away from me. I smelled the hideous burning sulfur of smelling salts.

“What happened?” I asked.

“You fainted right onto Liam Brady.”

I burned with confusion and embarrassment. I fainted? On the cutest boy in class? This was grade-school death. No boy would ever look at me the same. Every girl would relish my humiliation. Lucky for me, it was the last time I fainted on Liam Brady. But it set the stage for a lifetime of strange romance.

Meghan goes on to talk about the difficulties of dating with her disease. And how (much like me), she just wants to be like other women, “women who can date men casually without having to explain their mysterious spells.”

I don’t have spells. I have missing body parts, body parts that will eventually be methodically reconstructed, thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery. But until they’re back, I have to field questions from the guys I date about my missing breasts and when they’ll return (and occasionally, how large those returning breasts will be — sigh). Much as Meghan has had to explain to her dates why she sometimes passes out in alleys or galleries or the kitchen floor of her apartment “like a person who has blacked out without drinking seven cocktails.”

Some people have questioned my decision to date during cancer treatment and recovery, gently suggesting that I might be better off “just staying home and healing” than slapping on a wig and war paint and a tucking a couple of gummi boobs (or “sandbags” as one suitor called them) into my bra and heading out the door. I’m all for healing, but when it comes to cancer, I’m also all for distraction. Seriously, I can only sit around my apartment taking cleansing breaths for so long before I go a little bonkers.

So like Meghan, I date, even though I have a disease (despite treatment, the docs won’t tell me I’m disease-free for a few years). And like Meghan, I fill in the blanks for men when I absolutely have to.  And like Meghan, I occasionally write about the whole bloody mess, which may just be the most healing thing of all.

Dating with a disease may not be the smartest thing in the world. It may or may not be the healthiest. But it helps me feel normal and keeps me supplied with a slew of entertaining stories for my friends and family. Besides, if everyone with a little something wrong with them were to climb out of the dating pool, that sucker would be mighty empty. 

As always, thanks for the read. And for you singles with narcolepsy, cancer or some other disease or condition, I’d love to hear how the dating world’s been treating you.

2 Responses to “Dating with disease”


  1. 1 Pamela March 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I just have to say I think you are amazingly brave! Myself not so much right now. A little over a year ago my husband of over 20 years passed. I thought maybe I’m ready. Not so much. Had this guy tell me don’t smile so much (bad teeth aren’t attractive). No ins. all our money went on taking care of my husbands care. Nothing left to take care of me. I thought what the hell no one’s perfect. I went on a old timers dating site, put up a photo of myself (smiling w/o showing teeth) I had so many inquiries, I was overwhelmed. They wanted to meet for coffee, lunch, etc… two weeks I lasted on that site and just couldn’t bring myself to meet anyone in person. God Bless You! As for me, who knows, maybe a windfall is in my future :) And you, You are Blessed!

  2. 2 Liz May 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    And why wouldn’t you date if you wanted to? I have had breast cancer twice (once each side, so now my boobs don’t even match – 2 mastectomies due to multiple tumors, 2 different kinds of reconstruction), early colon and now follicular non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is the troubled kid I adopted at age almost 10 that prevents me from dating, not the cancers (although some men run the other way due to the cancers, my PhD chases some off before they even know about cancers). In order to date you need a life and due to her I don’t have a life LOL.


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What’s the story?

Meet Diane Mapes, your friendly neighborhood freelance writer. My regular beats include health, lifestyle and singles issues, but I also love writing about history, natural history, pop culture and TV/film. On this site, you'll find links to my latest stories, media appearances, and, yes, a bit of social commentary on the single life. Also here, info on upcoming classes and events, a library of clips, and a few shameless plugs about my books (hint: see links below). Have fun, glad you're here and hope to hear from you soon!

Oh! And if you're looking for my breast cancer blog, go to Double_Whammied

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How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

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