Love Is…(9 Acts of Love Recounted by Cancer Survivors)

Love—romance, flowers, hearts, chocolates and Valentine’s Day.

But is this really love?

I asked my fellow cancer survivors the following question—What acts of kindness expressed love to you when you were diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy?

Let us count the ways:

  1. Prayer – Cancer is bigger than we are, but not bigger than God. Many of us experienced the love of God through the outpouring of prayers whether offered by individuals, or through organized prayer chains. For example, a friend of one survivor set up a 24-hour prayer vigil during her first surgery. The night shift slots filled in first for the 15-minute increments of prayer.
  2. Meals – Whether scheduled meals organized on spreadsheets, refrigerators filled with a cuisine prepared by gourmet restaurants, lunch dates, or homemade bean soup to warm the belly of a caregiver, food conveyed comfort and love.
  3. Home and lawn care – Friends vacuumed, scoured bathrooms, emptied garbage, did laundry and even cleaned the litter box. Some offered free housecleaning for a period of time. Volunteers mowed the lawn, raked the leaves and shoveled snow.
  4. Treatment support – The medication regime and generalized weakness necessitated transportation to and from chemotherapy treatments and doctors’ appointments. Juggling rides, meals, cleaning and shopping while undergoing treatments can be exhausting, so one friend set up a list of contacts of those who wanted to help and then acted as point person to fill the need. We appreciate all of those who sat with us, prayed with us and encouraged us during our infusions, sometimes lasting the better part of the day. When one survivor needed a companion to stay with her during six weeks of radiotherapy, her friends each spent a week of vacation time to hang with her.
  5. Finances – A cancer diagnosis is costly. We are grateful to those who orchestrated collections, raffles, fundraisers, GoFundMe pages and MedGift. One group raised funds to enable a friend to have a second opinion at a major cancer center. Co-workers donated their paid time off. Even children operating a lemonade stand, offered a sweet contribution.
  6. Personal care – It is frightening and humbling when we are unable to care for ourselves. When a wife was too weak to feed herself, her husband stepped up to the plate. One daughter flushed her mother’s PICC line every morning for months on her way to work. Another daughter changed her mother’s surgical dressing each day for months. When one woman was unable to shower after surgery, friends and family arranged a hair-washing soiree.
  7. Gifts – We received many lovely and thoughtful gifts: wigs, hats, scarves, prayer shawls, hand made quilts, knitted socks, blankets, cardigans, gift cards, flowers, lotions, magazines, Ipads, puzzle books, devotional books, adult coloring books, Far Side cartoon books and encouraging cards. Earrings, pearls, crystal bracelets, and ribbon necklaces provided the bling. Chemo bags bulged with the above items, but more importantly brimmed with love. One woman received 80 pairs of Lularue leggings. Some received Spa days and massages. Another received a book from a friend she hadn’t seen in forty years—The Little Engine That Could.
  8. Time – Cancer isolates us. We are grateful to those who visited us when we were sick, listened to our concerns, prayed with us, laughed with us, called us throughout the day to let us know we were in their thoughts and prayers. There were the long nights in the hospital with loved ones where we happily relinquished sole control of the remote. We cannot forget the children who tucked their grandma into bed at night and read to her.
  9. Crazy love – Individual and unique acts of love offered by family and friends.
  • While too sick to get off the sofa, a friend painted the entire  apartment with odorless paint.
  • The students and co-workers of a teacher shaved their heads in solidarity.
  • One woman struggled with her daily alternative treatment—a coffee enema. While she was at work, her engineer husband mastered the technique on himself and then instructed his wife step-by-step.
  • The sister and friends of one survivor surprised her with concert tickets to see her favorite musical artist, arranging a security escort with flashing lights and a backstage pass.
  • Love rivaled a Hallmark movie when a survivor’s boyfriend proposed to her after her third chemotherapy treatment. One week later, wedding bells chimed.

These expressions of love include many faces and facets of kindness.

But what is love? According to I Corinthians 13, love is patient, love is kind, and love endures all things—even cancer.