Learning To Love Again After Cancer

I can't believe it's already November!!!!! Where has the time gone, I am weeping. I hope you are all doing well and being safe in this tricky time...I know I am. I moved to work from home and if I see a friend we usually just go for a walk outside and have tea/coffee together. 

So it's now been 4.5 years since I was deemed 'no sign of disease' by my oncology team. My life has changed so much and I do feel like I have grown as a person a lot. Something I have been thinking about lately is love, the concept of love, how to love and how to receive love. Emotions have been a topic that I always struggle with internally. It's like, intellectually I can express in words how I am feeling, but I often have trouble with the actual feeling part - and love is especially one of those emotions I do not understand. 

I have friends and family who I see in partnerships and you can feel the love emanating from them; the way they look at each other, the subtle touches, the laughter and the comfort. I do not think I have ever felt these things, even in my last long-term relationship...which was somewhat toxic now that I reflect on it. It's no surprise that cancer changes us as people both mentally and physically but I seem to have stumbled into this world of cancer changing my ability to love or develop compassion for another human. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and my close friends, and I would legit die for them and do anything I could to help them. This love I am talking about is for a significant other, someone with who I want to share life but feeling so guarded all the time, like I have massive steel walls built around my heart and my soul, making it seem unattainable. 

I know that cancer affects relationships, it did in mine as I was going through treatment and in the years after. But what I do not know is how I built these walls that have stopped me from truly opening up and being vulnerable and allowing myself to love someone else...or be loved by someone else.

I look back at some old photos and I feel sooooo detached from that girl, which is normal, but I am also envious because I think my heart was way more open than it is now. I do not know how to navigate love in this post-cancer life. During treatment, I lost SO much of myself physically and mentally, my hair, eyelashes, my libido, my confidence, my body. A lot of insecurities can come with this, including a new form of self-preservation and a fierce protectiveness over yourself. In time, I was able to gain many of the things I lost back – they were changed, but they returned.

During recovery from cancer, we are encouraged to learn and discover what we want our life to be about, but also that it's time to focus on yourself and learn to love yourself again. If I cannot love myself, how can I love another person? Makes sense really, we have to be our own heroes, our own success and learn to stand on our own two feet again. No one is going to come to save us but ourselves.

I think that learning to love and even date again after cancer is most difficult because even though for the most part I am 'okay' I see life very differently from most people which in turn can make it really difficult to connect with someone emotionally. I value my own time way more, I value life like it's a thirst I can't seem to quench and I value myself more than anyone else. Maybe that's it, I value myself 100% more than anyone else. I will do whatever it takes to make sure I am living life how I want it, which can leave little room for the ability to love another person (again, not applying this to friendships, but to potential partnerships with a significant other).

I understand that life is so precious and short. I know what it's like to be a healthy 21-year-old one day, and then being told that I have tumours all over my chest the next day. I know what it's like to spend hours attached to an IV drip of chemotherapy. I know it's like to hold your breath while a radiation laser zig zags over your body. I know what it's like to hurt. I know what it's like to die and be alive again.

I do not want to settle into something that I do not understand or want. So even though I have been dating, no-one has actually shown that they cared enough to get to know the real me. And to be honest, if I were to die tomorrow or get sick again *knock on wood* would I want to be with someone on such a superficial level? Hard Pass. I want the person I am with to make me feel alive and I want to make them feel alive. I want to feel magic and curiosity and the unknown. I want to learn from them, and them from me. Sounds like a fairytale but LOL I am good with that analogy. Honestly, life is too short to settle, that is something cancer can gift us all with. It's important to be happy, something a cancer patient knows well.

What cancer survivors have over everyone else in the world is that we understand undoubtedly how short life is, and how important it is to be happy. Maybe for me, my happiness and love come hand in hand. I am happy with my life right now, my business, myself, and therefore maybe I am not serious about receiving love from someone else as I am filled with enough love for myself at my current stage of life. I like the sounds of that, to be honest. 

I am enjoying life, I am living, I am laughing and I am not really ready to be with anyone who isn't on that level, that sounds so obnoxious but hey it's the truth! I do want to find a partner to share my life with but I can't rush a plan that the universe has for me and I will not be settling for a tinfoil knight, fuck that I want a fire breathing knight in steel armour who can fight and live life alongside me; for now, I am my own fire breathing knight because life is too short for a tinfoil love.

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