Hugs Have No Side Effects

For Jeremy and Dylan, who still remember to hug.

I love their expressions — thank you all!

During my initial treatment, I was dubbed “side-effects boy”. If there was any potential downside to radiation, treatment or meds, I got to experience it. If they did TV commercials for cancer drugs, the disclaimers would double the airtime. But you deal with it. Of course, we all do. We have to. This disease is trying to kill you. You don’t wimp out in the fight of your life.

Hot flashes, dizziness, crushing fatigue were the most common. One drug made me sleepy during the day and wide awake at night. Standing up was sometimes an adventure, I didn’t always get to stay up. I was cold all the time.

Hugs say what words sometimes can’t

But hugs are warm. Hugs helped me stand. Hugs said what words sometimes weren’t able to, or couldn’t bear to say yet again. I’ll take a hug wherever I can.

And prayers, too. People offer to keep me in their prayers. “I’ll take all the help I can get”, I reply. Prayers to Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu or Thor — they’re all good. I’m not a particularly religious man, but I’ll never turn down a chance to get a little universal goodwill winging my way wherever I can.

In the middle of the night, when one of us lay awake thinking about it again, hugs helped me get back to sleep. A hug congratulated my friend who had the courage to shave her head when chemotherapy had taken her hair. And another helped ease the pain when she lost her battle. Because trying and praying and fighting and treatment don’t always cure cancer.

Hugs speak volumes. They say, “You’re important to me”. They’re caring, and happy and sometimes silly. I’m fortunate to have a group of close friends who often eschew traditional greetings for a big hug. It brings us all closer, and not just literally.

Hugs say, “You’re important to me”

Not that it’s always appropriate. I once hugged my radiation oncologist after he taught our indoor cycling class. A soggy, wet and sweaty hug it was, too. Truthfully, I can’t recommend that one.

But action is always better than inaction, so take a chance and hug someone. I promise, there are no side effects.

And now, just a few years later, some hugs remind me of what didn’t happen then. And those are the best ones of all.

A special thank-you to my wife, my sons and my dear friends for all the hugs, and those to come

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