I can have a conversation with you about your stressful day while infusing antibiotics straight into my heart through a port-o-cath. I pay attention to your every word when nausea kicks in, asking intelligent follow-up questions, and when you’re relaxed after your stressful day, just ask that you hold my hand. Bonus points if you can bring me a Starbucks en route to the hospital.
I am 32 years old and have been hospitalized 67 times, ranging in length from one day to six months. The diagnosis is cystic fibrosis and diabetes. The prognosis? Nobody really knows.
I am happily engaged to a healthy man. In fact, he’s so healthy I don’t know if in 5 years I’ve seen him eat a vegetable that I didn’t force him into.
And yet, dating was extremely difficult for me as I grappled with questions on when to tell him about my condition, navigating extended hospitalizations, and yes, even losing my bowels without warning one night.
It’s not uncommon for those with chronic illnesses to be shunned from the dating community. Many have given up entirely and left to feel like ‘used goods’.
Even as I researched the article, polling my friends with chronic illnesses, many were reluctant to share their names because if a guy on an app googled them, they would face rejection before they felt it was time to disclose.
And I couldn’t help but remember what it was like for me the moment the hot guy I was getting to know, decided to type my name into Google, and decide if he was up for the adventure.
Our love story lasts and here are 5 other reasons that if you’ve been given the news or been contemplating taking the next step with someone with a chronic condition, to give it a go!
1. She Embraces Change
Every symptom we have we are fully prepared to pack our overnight bag and head to the emergency room. Delicately we balance a full life on the outside, with a meaningful life on the inside of the hospital wards.
I’ve always prided myself on dating men who are spontaneous. There’s nothing like leaving on a trip at the spur of a moment on a Friday afternoon.
Sometimes, that trip is to the hospital.
Many times, that trip is to a place we’ve been talking about visiting.
Don’t get trapped dating a woman who you have to convince to live a little. We’re prepared to change our plans on a dime and have a good time, regardless of where we end up.
2. She’ll enhance your life.
There’s a high probability we won’t want small talk about how the Vikings keep losing. And yet, when you explain the plays to us, we will cheer louder than the die-hard fans because we know what it’s like to root for something as part of a larger piece of life.
“Babe, you don’t even like sports,” I can hear my fiance comment.
“I like winning though,” I retort back.
He teaches me about quarterbacks, I teach him about infusing an IV drip. It’s called teamwork, and it’s the fabric of what has built our relationship during the best of times and the worst of times.
When the wedding day comes, we will know what it means to say “I do” when the pastor asks about sickness and health. We can get through it all, because we have.
3. She Doesn’t Care About The Trivial Things
I will be the first to admit that I have my hairstylist on speed dial. She knows that when I call, she needs to get me in for my extensions because I’m about to travel or I’m getting back from an extended hospital stay.
And yet, I’m not going to talk to my fiance about my hair at length. Or my makeup. Or my patent leather shoes. Or my nails because the polish actually causes the machines to malfunction when reading our oxygenation levels. There is nothing trivial that can detract us from spending intimate moments together, experiencing the journey of life, and having deep conversations about it.
4. She’s Low Maintenance
Chronic illness has forced us to grow up enduring a lot of trauma. We’ve seen our friends buried before us from the same conditions we battle, we have spoken at funerals, and held the hands of the parents as they say “goodbye.”
Nothing rattles us. We don’t care if our hair is perfect or if you’re a few minutes late. We’re strong when times are rough and able to hold your hand too when things get hard. We’ve been through moments in the hospital you can’t even imagine and are fully prepared to be strong for those we love when the time comes.
5. She’ll break you out of your comfort zone.
In the hospital, we are woken up at 5 am for blood draws and encounter dozens of personalities every single day as people arrive with needles, vials, tests, and treatments.
During one type of treatment, a respiratory therapist beats our lungs with a machine and forces us to cough while we simultaneously inhale medicine to keep our airways open.
And we sit there, smiling and having small talk.
We are extroverted AF and know how to turn on the charm at any given moment. We will push you to see a world beyond what you’ve already experienced, teaching you tricks of extroversion to match your introversion. And if you’re extroverted? All of that pent up energy inside of hospitals for months out of every year means we are ready for adventure when we get out, matching your style easily and effortlessly.
Gentlemen, dating chronically ill women is not as scary as you may think. We bring the best out of you and force you to come to terms with how all of our lives are ending. In fact, that realization means you will have the best relationship you ever had. You will learn to love differently, appreciating the small joys as well as cheering on (loudly) the big wins. Try it.