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I have written about the support that a partner/spouse provides to someone living with cancer—with prostate cancer and for young adults with cancer—and I always include the partner in discussions about treatment choice or sexual difficulties.But a number of my older patients are single, and their experiences of facing treatment and survivorship alone are profoundly moving.What if the desire for sex or a platonic relationship were two items on the profile list of a dating website? One of the saddest stories I have heard in this realm was that of an 87-year-old man who lived in a nursing home. For many, beyond the acute loss of a life partner, lies years of loneliness or at least alone-ness.Something that I have found interesting is that both men and women say that they are most interested in companionship. Most of my patients say that they want someone to travel with, to go out for dinner with, or to a movie or symphony concert.And then the women say: “Of course, if he wants to have sex, I’ll do it for his sake, but that really doesn’t interest me.” The men say: “So, you have to help me find a way to get an erection, because if that’s what these women want, then I’ll have to do that, even though it’s not that important to me.” See why I would like to start a matchmaking service?They often want to find someone with whom to share their life—and this is a real challenge.
My male patients are often overwhelmed by the number of single women who respond, instantaneously for one of my patients, with identical “likes.” I never knew so many women were interested in hunting and fishing—or who think that men are!My female patients report that the men they meet don’t look much like their profile photos—hair loss and 20 pounds of extra weight are often the reality of meeting in person. My patients ask me what they should do next—and having never registered a profile myself, I am not able to provide much more than common sense suggestions.That would not be ethical of course—but I bet I would be successful in pairing some of them up . Dating these days seems to start with an online membership to one of the many dating websites out there.That, in itself, is a challenge for many of my older patients who are not tech-savvy or at least not comfortable with posting a picture and completing an online profile.
It seems that after cancer men and women who are not able to either have erections or who are not interested in sex, are willing to do it if a potential partner wants it—or if they assume that a potential partner wants it.
They seem to be making assumptions about what someone they don’t even know may want, and they are willing to compromise their own desires for the sake of establishing a relationship.