During the medical test I was told not to move except for breathing. A long needle was inserted into my breast, pulled partially out, repositioned, and inserted deeply again a number of times. This process was painful. It also lasted longer than I expected. All I could think about was being perfectly still so this test did not need to be repeated! Finally I reached the point of no longer being able to contain my tears and they quietly slid down my face. A nurse standing beside me slipped her hand under the blanket covering me and held my hand. That changed everything.
I was no longer alone. I immediately knew someone in the room understood how difficult this was, and was giving me an active sign of support. Her personal attention acknowledged both my physical and emotional needs, and formed a bond of solidarity between us. While my tears ran unchecked, she gave me eye contact, told me where we were in the process, and held my hand until the test was finished. She gave me the gift of being completely present, and her physical touch reassured me of her focused attention and caring concern.
When I look back on that test, I remember that the pain was balanced by the kindness of a stranger. I don’t even know her name, but I remember what she did for me. Her thoughtfulness made all the difference. She used the simple act of holding hands to communicate personal support in a cold, sterile room where everyone else was focused on the process, not the person.
It was a gift given with perfect timing, and a reminder of how important small gestures can be. The difficulty of my test was quietly acknowledged, and her gentle act confirmed that I was seen and understood. “Holding hands is a promise to one another that, just for the moment, the two of you don’t have to face the whole world alone” (author unknown). Holding hands has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
When we are truly present for the people around us, we listen with eye contact and become mindful, attentive, and aware. Putting down our phones and stepping away from our computers is the doorway into the shared comfort of hand-holding experiences. We open ourselves up to more intimate opportunities when we affirm our support of anyone going through a difficult time. When we are dealing with cancer there are plenty of places where we feel like we’re struggling or stumbling. Emily Kimbrough writes, “Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand-in-hand.”
This is what we do in Friends After Diagnosis – we walk hand-in-hand. Along with that we also hug, listen, support, laugh, and respect changing needs. We honor the importance of time alone to process what is happening, as well as times together to share and support. Whatever you’re facing, wherever you are in your treatment plan, know there are kind hearts and hands in Friends After Diagnosis. The comfort and security of holding hands makes whatever is happening a bit easier. Let’s enjoy being truly present with each other, and share the simple, priceless treasure found in the meaningful connection of holdinghands.
Until Next Time – Sylvia