What is the value of a HUG?

(This is part of the opening remarks I gave for the first HUG conference that we organized here in the Netherlands)

A tightly held hug after hearing the words "you have breast cancer" can be one of the most soothing and grounding acts. It can mean having someone to hold on to, to lay one’s head, to hear another person’s heart beating. To be given the chance to acknowledge that eventhough the world seems like it is spinning out of place, there is more to life than the diagnosis. There is that person next to you, holding space for you, loving you.

A hug after hearing the words "will I have it too mama?" from your then 7 year old daughter can be so reassuring. When words fail to give clarity or certainty, a hug soothes the questioning soul. Enough to muster the reply "we don’t know but whatever the future brings we’ll get through it together."
A hug can also mean "look at me, I am still here with you". This is specially true when your 6 year old blurts out from out of nowhere " I love you forever, even after you die." A long hug works wonders in connecting to the present. What only matters is now.

A hug after receiving the words "your mammogram is clear" is all about the celebrations that we share with others. These are the moments that we hold close to our hearts and would like to capture in memory. A memory shared with those we love.

I’ve been at the receiving end of so many hugs the past few months. I have been on the giving end of it too specially from other women that I met whose lives are also changed by cancer or illness. It is such a defining moment to give and receive a hug specially after treatments (not so much after chemo that was when I had a difficult no hugging policy).

But a hug after hospital visits, after another long day or after a lonely period can mean getting the other person ready to face a new morning. For in each hug that we give and receive is a message that no matter what is going on and the struggles we are encountering, we only have to reach out and know that we are not alone.

P.S. If you happen to read this, I encourage you to all #startwithahug.

For more info about the HUG conference visit www.startwithahug.com