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Should I disclose my health problems?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  November 12, 2010 08:45 AM

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I'm hunting for updates to run over the holidays. I'll be reaching out to past letter writers, but if you're a letter writer who wants to take the initiative and update me on your own, please do. E-mail me from the address you used to send the original letter so I know it's really you. Put "update" in the subject line.

Here's a letter about kidneys before the weekend.


Q: Hi Meredith,

I love your column and all the great advice you give, so I'm hoping you can now assist me. About 7 months ago I was diagnosed with severe kidney disease and renal (kidney) cancer. I am in my 40s, single, and divorced for many years with adult children. After going through all of this alone it has recently started to bother me that I'm single. I would like to meet someone, whereas in the past I really never cared if I was single or not. My question is, do I tell the person I meet about my condition right away or do I wait? And if I wait, how long do I wait? Although the cancer is gone, the kidney disease will never go away, so part of me feels like it's not fair to be a burden on someone. The other part of me says I have the right to meet someone and be happy.

Any advice you or the readers could give is appreciated.

– Me and my kidneys, Bridgewater

A: Not to be a downer, MAMK, but once you're in your 40s, most people in your social circle will have some sort of ailment or chronic illness. You're not damaged goods. I mean, your kidneys are damaged, but that happens. You're not looking for someone to play nurse. You're looking for a partner for the fun stuff, right?

You don't have to share your medical history "right away." I assume that when you meet someone and really get talking about the past few years, you'll organically mention that you were a total hotshot and survived cancer and that you now cope with less-than-cooperative kidneys. You don't have to disclose the experience as if it's a big red flag on your dating resume. Really, most people would rather date a nice person with damaged kidneys than a healthy person who's kind of a drag.

You do deserve to meet someone. So smile. Be nice. Enjoy the company of others. Let the health history come up naturally. And don't be ashamed of it. We're all living in human bodies. We do the best we can.

(And please -- join a support group for people who deal with kidney issues. It'll help you expand your community and answer your big questions.)

Readers? How soon should she share her medical history? Are you less likely to date a person with a chronic illness? Discuss.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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