Friends Supported Me Through Cancer With Air Hugs, Prayers and Quality Time


Many well-meaning people wanted to hug me after hearing of my rectal cancer diagnosis, but I’m not a very touchy person. So, loved ones supported me in other ways.

Hugs are well-meaning in times of sorrow or joy, and as much as I enjoy my community, I don’t like hugs. My personal space bubble is blown up and ready to keep others at a distance. It’s part of my personality, and it’s OK. Not everyone is a hugger. Sometimes people want to be close to me during exciting moments or times of comfort, but I’ll try to avoid the physical touch.

When I was diagnosed with rectal cancer, I had three rectal exams and a colonoscopy within a month or so of my first symptom. My sensitivity was heightened, and I was anxious about each doctor’s appointment. I would tense up as I entered the exam room, eyeing the thin hospital gown that I didn’t want to wear. Being touched in a painful and private area is something most people would consider uncomfortable, but for an anti-toucher, like me, it was agonizing.

My doctors were great at reading my nonverbal cues. They talked me through relaxing and breathing. Noticing my slight lean away, they’d stop before their hand rested on my shoulder. I could tell they usually practiced “good” bedside manners with gentle touches. But with me, they had to use their words for support.

Cancer is bad news and cries out for sympathy. I wanted to share my health information with my friends and family so they could care for me and pray for my healing and peace. Each time I told another person and saw their tears, the weight of caring for them pressed on me. They’d want to give me a strong embrace, and I’d want to tell them God’s got it under control. I didn’t desire a hug of comfort, so I thought of other ways to let people know ways they could show their love for me.

Give me quality time. I just wanted to be with them. Talk. Share a meal. They listened and laughed with me. It worked! But only for a moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit and the lockdowns separated us. I was alone for treatment. We were faced with them not being able to touch me and also not being about to hang out with me.

Thankfully, they managed to find other ways to encourage me. People still blessed me throughout my cancer journey. Even through social distancing, they were there. We learned to give air hugs, and they found practical ways to support me.

They cleaned my house. Someone in my church had a house cleaning service come over while I was at chemotherapy. It was refreshing to know my home was taken care of for my kids and all the dust and germs were gone.

They connected with cards and text messages. I had an endless amount of cards coming to my home during my treatment. Every day, someone was writing me or messaging me with funny memes.

They gave gift cards and meals. If they could cook, they’d bring over meals for my family for the weeks after my surgery. Others would send us gift cards so we could have a meal on days when I wasn’t feeling well and we were out of leftovers.

They prayed. As a Christian, I really appreciated my friends and family who took the time to talk to God about my situation. God answered their prayers by providing these things for me and filling me with His Spirit of peace at important times.

These blessings were how God used the people in my life to let me know He would always be with me. I learned that I have a great community of support which helped me mentally and spiritually during this hard season.

Now, I want to pay it forward. We each have different ways of wanting to receive support and care whether it’s hugs, cards, or a good house cleaning. Recognize what others like when you think of giving to them and consider what form of love you like so you can offer suggestions to people who want to help you.

My favorite way to give is encouragement by sharing my story in my book, “God Above Cancer: Faith When It’s Ugly.” The book tells about how God used my bad cancer for His good and gives more details about my cancer experience. Sharing your story can help other cancer patients feel connected, inspire caretakers to keep caring day after day, and let others know they’re not alone in this world of pain and suffering.

This post was written and submitted by Amy Larry. The article reflects the views of Amy Larry and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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