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She can still have sex, but her vagina is only two inches long.
While cancer at any age can be devastating, this group finds themselves battling a sometimes deadly disease at the same time they're asserting their independence in ways both big and small: moving out on their own, establishing careers, managing finances and, yes, dating.When it comes to finding love, in particular, having cancer takes so many of the issues that singles face -- body image, sexual experience, self-esteem and the task of explaining one's personal history -- and amplifies them."Dating with cancer is like dating intensified," says Kairol Rosenthal, author of "On one hand, it's a terrible time to think about dating because you're really vulnerable," she says."On the other hand, when you're really vulnerable and you're single, you really want the hope of comfort."That doesn't necessarily mean young cancer patients need to hit the pause button on dating, but it can be more complicated.This article is part of Generation Why, a Huff Post Healthy Living series putting the spotlight on young adult cancer patients and survivors between the ages of 15 and 39. In 1997, fresh out of college, Tamika Felder moved from her hometown in South Carolina to Washington, D. When she landed her first gig, she didn't care that it didn't come with health insurance. If a health crisis came up, she figured she'd go to a free clinic.Four years later, Felder's career was on track, and she was happily single and dating.
When she secured a job with health insurance in 2001, she scheduled a routine gynecologist visit for a long overdue exam and pap smear.The test turned up cancerous cells on her cervix, and she was diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer."I never really knew anybody my age who had cancer," she says."I actually thought the doctor was crazy."Felder underwent a procedure that removed her uterus, cervix and part of her vagina, leaving her with her ovaries.That was followed by a month and a half of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.After treatment, she was left with bad radiation burns, a crooked butt crack ("It's like a question mark almost," she says) and an inability to have children.