The Pitfalls of Dating After Cancer


By: Steve Del Gardo

Dating after cancer? As one man to another, one breast cancer survivor to another, let me tell you: It’s been awful.

After my cancer journey was over, I waited three years to get back in the game, because I was taking Tamoxifen and it had several side effects that wouldn’t work well with dating. You know, attractive things like … hot flashes, rage, hormonal issues, weight gain. None of those are good on a date. A woman would think I was insane, an idiot, or an insane idiot. Not good!

In September of 2016, I decided to get off Tamoxifen, so I could finally reclaim my life. I lost the weight, started working out, no more side effects. OK, I am ready to date. Watch out, ladies, here I am!

But I heard only crickets. Nothing. Not even a whisper. What happened? Before cancer, I was dating a lot. What’s going on??

Friends have told me it will take time. Well, how much time? I am 49 years old (I’ll be 50 in 3 months), but I look like I am in my mid 30s. Good Italian genes, I guess.

Friends also said not to be too honest on the first date, meaning I shouldn’t tell them that I am a breast cancer survivor. But that doesn’t work well, because my dates always ask what I do for a living. Then it comes up (I run a male breast cancer foundation), and I get the “Oh,” followed by silence — or worse. I had one date who left me at the table, after saying she could not date a guy who’d had breast cancer. Really? Wow!

I felt devastated. Is this how it is going to be going forward? I hope not. I will keep trying until I find the right one, but it is daunting sometimes.

I’ve been trying the online dating sites since then, but they haven’t gone all that well, either. Women on these sites are more interested in the foundation that I created, than in me. I guess that could be a good start for a friendship, but I really don’t know anymore.

It shouldn’t be this complicated. Why can’t I just pass a note to a girl with the question: “Do you like me? Circle Yes or No.” It always worked in the good ‘ol days, when I was an 11-year-old kid in the 6th grade. Now, it’s so complicated. You have to answer 100 questions to get the right matches for you. If you’re too honest, no matches. If you lie well, tons of matches. But it’s a tough job keeping track of what you’ve said, and tougher living with whatever it was you said. It’s kind of sad, how that works these days, actually. There’s a cancer survivor dating site that sounds very interesting: I may try it one day. What the hell, right? It can’t get worse.

As I sit here wondering what else has changed after my cancer that may affect my dating, I realized that the only thing that has really changed about me is that I no longer have pecs and nipples. It isn’t like they were doing me much good anyway, right? I used to be self-conscious about my body after cancer. I have scars on my chest and no nipples. What woman will be interested in that? I lost my pecs due to the cancer, too. I can get reconstructive surgery to get them back, but I’d rather keep exercising and regain them the natural way, and that is taking some time. I am not in my 20s anymore, and it is a lot harder to work that area now.

We men feel the same as women when it comes to our bodies, by the way. My pecs don’t define me, but within society, men who do not have a nice chest area are frowned upon. Women want nicely built guys. I hear that all the time. We’re all visual creatures.

Back to the nipple issue. It does look weird. I mean if it looks weird to me, it must look really weird to a woman looking at me. So, what do I do? I can get a 3-D tattoo of a nipple, but that would still look weird. Maybe instead of a nipple, I’ll get happy face emoji tattoos. That would make for a very interested conversation, wouldn’t it?

Can you imagine, me having these emojis as a replacement where my nipples used to be? I would love to see a woman’s face when I remove my shirt.

Anyway, back to the dating thing. Yes, it sucks. Will it improve? I hope so. I do want to get married again. I know what I like and want. Finding her is an adventure. Maybe she’s sitting next to me here in Starbucks, or waiting for me to find her. Wherever she may be, I promise she will have the time of her life with me.

So, the moral of the story … Dating is difficult, whether you have cancer or not. Bring on the emoji tattoos!

(On a positive note, I don’t need a woman to make me happy. I’m happy with my life. Make sure you are happy within yourself before getting into a relationship. Life is too short! Every day is a gift!)

BIO: My name is Steve Del Gardo. Father/Son/Survivor/Warrior of Life. Read my story at:

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