Couple on BeachReprinted and revised from the February, 2011 LRG Newsletter.

With Valentine’s Day looming, thoughts turn to relationships. There are often unrealistic expectations of the day: a dozen red roses, a satin heart filled with fine chocolates, a romantic dinner – even a proposal.

But for many, this is a difficult day, especially for those who are not in a significant relationship. This is even more difficult for those with a cancer diagnosis.

When dating, people with a cancer diagnosis often avoid talking about their illness. Fear often stands in the way of revealing this, especially in the early stages of a relationship.

One of our LRG members, now a happily married man with two children, shared his thoughts with us back in the day when he was dating.

“With GIST, we are lucky that most of us still have the ability to date without the other party having to jump the emotional and mental hurdle of a deformity,” states Jason DeLorenzo, Pediatric GIST survivor, “However, what will happen when this person knows that I face my death every day, and life with me will force you to face that reality yourself.”

The American Cancer Society cautions against keeping silent for long, “Sometimes you can ignore the cancer for a time. But when a relationship gets serious, silence is not the best plan. If you don’t talk about it, cancer can become a secret that will limit your closeness to your partner. A loving partner needs the chance to accept you as you are.”

You can avoid rejection by avoiding dating, but then you miss out on the chance to have a happy healthy relationship.

A few years ago Eric Tan, a young GISTer in Singapore offered this insight, “Ask yourself this question, ‘Do I want to have a relationship or not?’ If you are unsure or feel negatively about it, then I suggest you find a lot of hobbies (that can last you until old age), pay more attention in building your friendships and be happy for as long as you are alive. However, if the answer is yes, then use GIST as your strength instead to pick up your lazy hand and dial that number and ask out someone for a date!”

Difficulties of Dating with GIST

“Dating with a GIST leads to two major difficulties,” says Estelle Lecointe, Pediatric GISTer and founder of Ensemble contre le GIST, The first one being to announce the disease, the second one to explain the induced collateral damages and personal sacrifices. It’s very difficult to find the right time to bring these topics in the discussion, as these aspects can be very scary for someone who’s never faced this kind of situation. If I say it at the very first date, I know by experience I might never see the man again because human nature tends to prefer simplicity rather than what I have to propose.”

A big issue in dealing with GIST and dating seems to be timing. If not on the first date, then the second? Third? When is the right time to broach the subject? feels that the talk should occur as your relationship starts to deepen. “The right time to talk to a partner about cancer differs for each person. However, it may help to wait until you and your new partner have developed a mutual level of trust and caring. It is also best to tell a new partner before a relationship becomes serious.”

Many GISTers have dated and have gone on to have long-term relationships, have married and started families. In part two of our series on relationships, which will appear in our April newsletter, tips on approaching the subject, new ways to meet people, and a few GIST love stories will be shared.