Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I often felt inadequate and uncomfortable when I went to visit friends or relatives in the hospital. Of course I would gladly pray and offer encouraging words, but I often walked away feeling as though my visit had little impact. This feeling was not because I  believed the prayers or words of encouragement that I offered were meaningless, but because when I walked out of the hospital room I saw no visible change in the physical condition of the person. It seemed like my visit had not made a difference. I did not understand that I had been bestowing the gift of presence. In other words, I showed up and accompanied the individual in the moment of need.

Now, five months after my own diagnosis, I realize that bestowing the gift of presence, or simply showing up, is the most important thing. My admission to the hospital was very quick. I had a doctor’s appointment and a couple of hours later, I was admitted to the hospital. None of my family members had time to get to me before I had to go to the hospital, so a dear friend took me and stayed with me. She supported me by bestowing the gift of presence as I did the paperwork and tried to navigate the unfamiliar workings of a hospital.

A few hours later, my mother arrived and never left. Just a few short hours after that, the cancer diagnosis was made and I had another diagnostic test before being prepped for surgery the next morning. So later that night, my dad and three sisters all came to see me, as well as long-time family friends. My two oldest nieces came. My older sister stayed, holding my  hand, all night in the room with me the night before surgery and my youngest sister the following night.

The presence of my family and friends comforted and encouraged me as a tangible demonstration of their love. I did not have time to grow anxious about surgery or even about having cancer because I was surrounded by the people most important to me. As my hospital stay extended, other friends came to visit. They were there with me and somehow this unexpected cancer detour felt better, easier, and far less frightening.

As  I continue with chemotherapy, I have many friends and family members who are with me. They call, send texts, cards and gifts; go with me to appointments; post comments on my blog, Facebook page or Caringbridge pages, surrounding me with their prayers, love, and encouragement.

This cancer detour is a lot less lonely and frightening because of all of you. Thank you for bestowing the gift of presence. Your presence makes a world of difference to me.