Not too long ago, one of my good friends got hitched and, over a year later, got married to the man of her dreams. It was a gorgeous wedding, and I was extremely happy for her, but it made me think: Am I ever going to get married?
As if dating weren't tricky enough, I have the added pressure of telling any guy I'm interested in that I've had tongue cancer and I still have the scars, the feeding tube and the follow-up appointments that came along with it.
Telling others about my tongue cancer treatment
Sometimes the idea of dating is scarier than cancer itself. Specifically, the idea of telling someone, "Hi, I'm Rita, and I've had cancer." No matter how hard I try, I can't make it sound remotely sexy or badass.
I've even tried, "Hi, I'm Rita, and I kicked cancer's ass." Nope. Still, nothing. I think most guys would either turn around and walk out, or feel sorry for me. And the last thing I need is for someone to look at me like, "Bless your poor little cancer-having soul," and feel pity for me. I don't need your pity, hot guy! I want you to think I'm sexy. But alas, sexy and cancer don't really go well together in the same sentence.
I have pretty healthy self-esteem, but I have to admit, cancer did land a good-sized blow, especially when my cancer recurred and I had to have chemotherapy. My hair fell out, and, thanks to the super-special chemo drug I was taking, I had an acne rash like no other. The more acne, the better it was working, the doctors said. I tried not to glare at them. I hadn't even had acne when I was in my teenage years. But there I was, in my early 20s, looking at my bald head and broken-out face, thinking, "How am I ever going to be ME again?"
For a while, cancer even took away my smile. In late April, I underwent a surgery that left me with two giant scars from incisions -- one that ran from the middle of my neck to the back of my right ear and another that ran on from my left thigh to my knee.
And let's not forget the feeding tube. At first, I had a feeding tube in my nose. When we figured out this would be more of a long-term thing, they put a peg feeding tube in my stomach.
I always joke that if I date someone, he'll probably have to have a feeding tube, just so I don't have to explain myself. Any invitation I get for dinner, lunch or coffee has to be followed up with, "I'd love to, but I have a feeding tube, so unless you're completely comfortable watching me shoot up formula/soup/coffee/water/etc. in a syringe and into a tube that will feed it into my stomach, then it might be a bad idea."
Thinking about my future after cancer
Thankfully, as time passed, I started getting over my dating concerns. I remind myself that I'm focusing on finishing my engineering degree right now, and dating isn't the priority. But someday that may change, and the time will come when I'll meet someone worthwhile. Or, who knows, maybe I won't, and I'll end up being a crazy dog lady with 10 dogs. And even if I do become a crazy dog lady, well, after all I've been through, if that's the worst that happens, I'm OK with that.
After all, cancer is just baggage, and we all have baggage. Mine's just a little heavier. On the bright side, I have the strength to deal with it.