At the time of her non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis, Linnea Olson was a married mother of three, her youngest was just seven years old.

Dating with cancer: How one woman combines dating with her diagnosis

Four years ago, Linnea made the difficult decision to divorce her husband of 24 years and began the process of “getting back to me.” As an artist with a self-described  sunny outlook and extraordinary self confidence,  Linnea is also back in the dating pool. If you think dating itself is tough, try dating with Stage IV lung cancer…

“I don’t really believe I am dying but the fact that I am living with a terminal illness might suggest otherwise. Diagnosed at the age of 45 with non small cell lung cancer, I have now been living with my (advanced) disease for thirteen years. When your statistical odds of surviving the next five years are as dismal as those I have faced (2% with stage IV lung cancer), optimism becomes your new best friend.” — Linnea Olson

Linnea received cutting edge care which included specialized testing for mutations.  She credits the resulting discovery of the ALK+ mutation for the fact that now, more than a dozen years later, she is not only alive, but thriving…and dating!

How to build an online dating profile for you (not  cancer)

Writing an online dating profile is always a challenge. That challenge only increases if you are single after having been married for decades, long before online dating even existed. Add the fact that you are living with lung cancer, and the job is harder still. Linnea’s first few profiles went over like lead balloons. Soon she understood that cancer had become an unwanted third wheel in any potential relationship. It then became clear that this was going to be harder than she thought. Of those first profiles, she recalls:

“In the spirit of forthrightness, I put my cancer out front. ‘I can deal with this and if you can’t, don’t bother,’ I said. And for the most part they didn’t. So then I tried another tack—offering up my physical attributes as a lead in: ‘I have long legs, really long legs. Blond hair, natural blond hair. And big boobs, real ones that I grew myself the summer before college.’ I then segued into ‘but these are my qualities that really matter…’. Cancer still got a mention, but considerably toned down. And my cheekiness attracted some attention, but not all of it positive.”

Cancer doesn’t have to be the third wheel in your love life

Discouraged but undeterred, Linnea moved on to Plan B. This time, her profile reflected her as a person. It was “real and honest.” It also made no mention of her cancer (or her boobs).

“The effect on my sense of self was astounding. I hadn’t even realized how much cancer had become part of my identity but once I shed it (even temporarily), I felt so free, so strong, so healthy, so very me.”

The new profile resulted in much greater interest. In putting herself before her lung cancer, Linnea was more self- confident than she’d ever been. By all accounts, she is having “a blast” meeting new people and experiencing new adventures. While her disease hasn’t gone away, Linnea is placing the emphasis on “dating” versus dating with cancer.

Dating with cancer: It gets better

“Online dating is like a playground, and if you want to have fun, you need to discard your shyness/fear of getting hurt and just jump right in. You can’t simply sit on the sidelines waiting—if you see someone you like, reach out to them. If they do not respond, don’t take it personally, but rather, go find someone else to play with.”

The online dating process has been eye opening for Linnea. She enjoys her newfound self confidence. She feels strong and empowered. She is also pragmatic about the reality of her diagnosis. She notes, with her signature joie de vivre:

“I have learned (and this is mind blowing, even to me) to present my cancer as a strength and a positive. Sure, my future remains uncertain, but in reality, so is everyone else’s. And yes, I’ve been through hell and likely have more to come, but hey—this is where my extraordinary confidence stems from. I know how strong I am and my joie de vivre is without bounds—I have truly learned to love life unconditionally. And these qualities make me one heck of a catch—cancer or no cancer.”


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Yes! You CAN survive a lung cancer diagnosis!