Would You Date Someone With a Chronic Illness?
Would you be my boyfriend? No, really. I’m 28, a graduate student at a prestigious university, for all intents and purposes I look like I’m in amazing shape, I’m well-spoken, I’m kind, I have an entrepreneurial spirit, I’m loving, I want a family, I have a huge heart and I love my family and friends. But, ugh – well, I have a chronic-illness. OK, maybe four (yes, four) chronic illnesses. Does that make me any less appealing to you? Do you now want to run for the hills? Or would you be my boyfriend?
Would you be able to handle the constant visits to the doctor’s office? Can you remember my triggers? What about the things I’m deathly allergic to? You think you could hold my hand when I walk up large flights of stairs? I have ataxia so sometimes my legs convulse uncontrollably and I can barely stand. How’s your gag reflex? Like, if I throw up, will you throw up? Because I throw up at least once a day. How about: how pissed would you be that I just threw up your hard-earned money or be mad we had to eat at a restaurant that accommodates my limited diet? Ha ha, you laugh, but it’s my reality.
What about holding me at night while my body convulses? Would you hold me tighter or just sleep at your house instead? What about the constant threat of life or death, the responsibility of my life? A split-second of hesitation and my life is on you. Would you do it? No, I mean, could you do it?
I don’t mean any of this rhetorically. Actually, I mean it quite literally. A few weeks ago I went on a “blind date” and it hit me: love, loyalty and respect are all novelties I respect and all, but my significant other has to do a whole lot more than just love me. Obviously love matters to me, but I also realized just how much I would need to lean on my person. In between his incessant desire to marry me and make beautiful mixed babies, I found myself not questioning his ability to be a father, husband or financial provider for my future beautiful babies. I wanted to know if he could take care of me if – no, when – the time comes.
Every relationship takes work. Especially the romantic sort of relationships. The cliche “marriage is work” is a cliche for a reason – it’s true. While I’m more than willing to do the work associated with a typical relationship, how fair is it to ask someone to do the work associated with chronic illness on top of the regular woes? It seems unfair. Unfair that the babies will never be – well, they say I’m unlikely to be able to carry them. Unfair that my energy levels temper my desire to interact with people or go out on dates in public. Unfair that my sexual desire is barely existent. Unfair stress induces flares so I’m reluctant to engage in conversations and situations I know will stress me (relationship arguments). Unfair that my medical debt could purchase oceanfront property anywhere and that’s as of right now. Unfair that our relationship could potentially be more about me than us, because at the end of the day, my life is always in the balance.
So would you be my boyfriend? Would you be the significant other of a chronically ill person, having met them while sick? I guess it’s easy to make a case for someone you already knew. But honestly, I don’t know what a reasonable response to that question is, given the great cost. But what I do know, and what anyone out there with a chronic or serious illness should know, is there are millions of people in the world thriving in relationships with significant others fighting a chronic (or serious) illness.
Typing this, thinking about this, asking myself this, I came to really see agape love in the world around me. It gave me hope. It should give you hope. You will find love – there is someone out there for you. Be patient with the universe. But remember when you have a burning desire in your heart for something, the universe has no choice but to enact the law of attraction and evoke reciprocity. So I have hope – hope not for a boyfriend, but hope in humanity. There are people in this world who have chosen to love someone unconditionally, to be there for better or for worse and to allow that love to be enough to want to be there, to really be there.
I mean, even I met someone who recently told me my cancer, Crohn’s disease, lupus and DRESS syndrome don’t scare him because everyone gets sick and everyone needs someone to help them through hard times. I literally didn’t even know how to respond because I hadn’t received that kind of acceptance and commitment to being in the right with me. Usually guys would freak and allow the overwhelming harsh reality of my condition deter them from wanting to invest in me as a person. So far –we’ll call him Prince Charming – Prince Charming has showed up to help me pack care packages, held me as I began to fall apart emotionally over my health concerns and has made me remember I am more than my illness. I am human too. Illness or not, I deserve to be loved and give love in return, just as much as every one of you.
Never forget that.
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