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Dating & Romance With Terminal Illness

 Andrea Lytle Peet with her husband, David, at the finish line of the Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2017.
Glennboi Photography
Andrea Lytle Peet with her husband, David, at the finish line of the Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2017.

Death and illness are some of the most difficult and heavy parts of life. But for folks navigating a terminal illness, sitting with that heaviness and establishing systems of support is part of the day-to-day — including in dating and relationships.

Host Anita Rao talks with Andrea Lytle Peet and David Peet about their love story and how Andrea’s Lou Gehrig's disease diagnosis has affected their relationship. Andrea is a triathlete and the creator of the Team Drea Foundation.

And Megan Yaeger, a blogger and vlogger, also joins the conversation to talk about dating. Megan chronicles her experiences with several rare and life-threatening conditions on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook under the username “The Life of Me Smile Magee.” She is also a contributing writer at TheMighty.com.

Interview Highlights

Andrea Lytle Peet and David Peet on intimacy while navigating ALS:

ALP: We lean in to the physical touch that we have. We sit together on the couch … and we hold hands. And we just appreciate that we have this time, and that feels more intimate than being out in the world. We are intentional with each other.

DP: Yeah, it's, you know, when she needs her toes to be stretched, or her fingers to be stretched or something like that — you know, it's not the first thing that probably most couples think of as far as as far as intimacy, but it makes a big difference to her and I think it's a unique way that we can kind of take care of each other and something that's certainly changed since diagnosis.

David on processing the grief of a diagnosis in their relationship:

We knew from the outset, from diagnosis, that grief, this profound grief would be a part of our lives for a long time and we would kind of continue to process it and in some ways, still are processing it today. ... We allowed each other room to talk about that grief and talk about the emptiness that we felt and kind of just let it in. The only other people that we knew at the time of diagnosis that were going through what we were going through was each other. And we needed to be able to talk about what we felt like we were losing and how much that hurt to also be able to appreciate what we still had.

Megan Yaeger on using humor around illness while on dates:

Humor is probably my number one coping mechanism. Like, my lungs are really bad, and I always cough. But whenever a guy gives me a funny look on a date when I cough, I tell him it's my mating call. Or like, I'll be limping and they'll give me a sad look and I'll be like: Hey, that's my sexy limp. That's just for you.

Megan on dating with an uncertain future because of illness:

It feels like I'm just handing a bunch of baggage over to someone. I think that's why commitment is so terrifying to me, because I can't even make plans for my own future. Sometimes it feels unfair, dragging someone into it. But I have to remember when dating that we all have broken pieces, and we all have baggage, but it's just a little more visible due to my illness. So I'm trying now as I move forward to just be upfront and open about it, and those people who are meant to stay in your life will stay.

Please note: This conversation originally aired June 18, 2021.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Kaia Findlay is a producer for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show. Kaia grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a household filled with teachers and storytellers. In elementary school, she usually fell asleep listening to recordings of 1950s radio comedy programs. After a semester of writing for her high school newspaper, she decided she hated journalism. While pursuing her bachelor’s in environmental studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, she got talked back into it. Kaia received a master’s degree from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism, where she focused on reporting and science communication. She has published stories with Our State Magazine, Indy Week, and HuffPost. She most recently worked as the manager for a podcast on environmental sustainability and higher education. Her reporting passions include climate and the environment, health and science, food and women’s issues. When not working at WUNC, Kaia goes pebble-wrestling, takes long bike rides, and reads while hammocking.
Anita Rao is the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content. She has traveled the country recording interviews for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps production department, founded and launched a podcast about millennial feminism in the South, and served as the managing editor and regular host of "The State of Things," North Carolina Public Radio's flagship daily, live talk show. Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest.