Cancer is not contagious. It is not a communicable disease. Yet when I was battling through a year’s aggressive cancer treatment, some folk who came to see me treated me like a leper. They often stood at the door, reluctant to come in. If they did come into the room, they would sit as far from me as possible.
I’m talking about people who would have greeted me with a hug and possibly a kiss before my cancer diagnosis. When my minister husband and I used to visit people in hospital with cancer or any serious disease, provided they were not infectious, we always made a point of holding their hands or touching their shoulders when we prayed with them. But a number of people can’t seem to touch the cancer victim.
Research has shown that just the act of touching patients significantly relieves their symptoms and reduces their anxiety. So when you visit your friend, sit next to her or in a nearby chair. Engage her in conversation. And when appropriate touch her, hold her hands, give her a hug. Show her you are not afraid that you will catch what she has. You don’t see her as “unclean”. Show her your love. Your visit will mean so much more to her than if you edge out the door, avoiding any contact.
Another suggestion written in the comments by Elizabeth Jolly says : At my support group there was a woman just finished with early stage treatment. She was clearly upset to realize she was sitting next to a metastatic “lifer.” Her greatest fear was of the cancer returning, of being in my situation. I think the fear many people really have is not of contagion, but we are reminders cancer could happen to them. (Or when it is me they are sitting next to, that cancer can recur as stage 4 and be incurable.)
Thank you for an excellent point, Elizabeth.
Bear this in mind when you’re talking to your friend. As we’ve seen earlier in this series, just the word “cancer” seems to strike a death knell in our lives. How best can your friend handle this? Suggestions? Please leave a comment below.