Lung Cancer Patients’ Experiences on Marriages, Relationships, Dating and Sex (Part 3)

Editor’s Note: This article discusses relationship abuse and suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please text or call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or visit their website.

Early this month I invited ladies from Norway, England, Singapore, USA, and Canada on a Zoom call to talk about their experiences with marriage, relationships, dating, and sex after lung cancer. I admire these ladies for being so open to speaking about their experiences. They are truly inspirational.

Below is a conversation with PH, who was diagnosed with lung cancer at 35.

This is PH's story...

I am 38 years old. I am a single mom of two college students whose father committed suicide two weeks before my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with stage 4 ALK+ lung cancer on July 3, 2017, at the age of 35, three days after I graduated from residency as an OBGYN. At the time, I was engaged.

While my fiancé was initially supportive, he quickly became angry, controlling, and manipulative as I was so sick. I couldn’t start the job I had signed a contract for and had no income. As time wore on, I progressed to the point where I was almost non-functional. Either he did not understand what was going on or he was in denial, nonetheless, he became emotionally and verbally abusive.

Sex was non-existent as he had long-standing sex issues, although he was even more sexually distant when I was sick. In the end, he blamed me for being “difficult” to live with while I was struggling with cancer and could not provide a dual income to help support his daughter. My family helped me to leave him and move back to my family’s home in San Francisco.

What does dating look like now?

I was in the midst of my transition from Alectinib to Lorlatinib at that time. I gradually recovered somewhat to where I felt like I was almost a normal person again. At that point, I was unemployed and suddenly had no partner which was quite terrifying. I gingerly started online dating but had minimal success.

At the advice of a male friend from the ALK group on Facebook, I signed up for the “Tinder” app which is widely known for being a “hook up” app. I subsequently learned that it is a platform for anyone looking for any type of interaction so it is a grab bag of characters wanting the spectrum from hookups all the way to long term relationships/life partners.

My first relationship was not what I expected

From Tinder, there were two significant interactions that both highlighted how having cancer drastically changed how desirable I was to be anything more than a hookup. At baseline before cancer, I considered myself a catch: I am highly educated, smart, a doctor who would have had a significant salary if I could have started my job, and to boost I’m pretty cute to say so myself.

The first person I met was a hookup and I told him that I was not working due to a health condition. After we slept together he proceeded to start asking me out, and said he would stay the night which suddenly disarmed me, I told him the truth. He quickly packed up and left. We saw each other again but it was clear he only considered me for sex after I told him about my lung cancer.

Read Lung Cancer Patients’ Experiences on Marriages, Relationships, Dating and Sex (Part 4) - coming soon.

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