" I didn't tell my Winter Formals date, hoping he'd notice my dance moves more than my penciled on eyebrows and the extra eyeliner I'd applied to make up for my missing eyelashes.I mostly kept guys at a friendly distance until the spring, when I'd finished my outpatient treatment and was in remission.
Guys flirted with me at parties with my friends, and for a moment, I could forget that I'd be checking back in the hospital in a few days.I'm proud of what I've overcome, and my life is refreshingly "normal," but dating is still a careful dance.At times it's a struggle because I don't want to feel like I'm hiding anything, and yet, I have to remind myself that hearing about one of these health "bumps" can be a lot to process when you're first getting to know someone, let alone a heart attack, heart transplant, leg amputation, and two bouts of cancer.It was important to me to tell them what happened, to help them understand why I tried to squeeze as much as I could into each day.But once it was out in the open, we needed to be able to move beyond it so that they could know me as a person. I felt a lump on my neck the summer after my freshman year, which turned out to be non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (diffuse Large B-Cell).I was strategic in scheduling first dates and was careful not to let them touch my "hair." There are many stories, but many of these dates didn't progress to the point at which I would have told them about my cancer, so it didn't wasn't a big issue at the time.
Now that I've been in remission for eight years, I'm still very public about my story –including my cancer survival - and sharing it to help others.But dating during and after cancer has its own challenges.Add a heart transplant and prosthetic leg into the mix, and things can get especially interesting.Once I assured them that I wasn't going to die in five years, I found that if I wasn't awkward about it, neither were they.My heart transplant scar made me a warrior, my boyfriend told me at the time. If anything, I sometimes had to be careful that guys didn't want to date me just because they were in awe of what I'd been through.By the time I was picking up the keys to my sophomore year dorm room, I'd finished my first round of chemo and could barely speak above a whisper because the cancer had spread to my throat.