“No supermarkets, no hugging,” my doctor reminded me. Right. That’s easy enough. Most people know the drill. Cancer patients do air kisses and virtual hugs. I am a hugger by nature. I often have to check myself and yes, sometimes I forget. I feel on top of the world, (mostly) but my immune system is taking a battering. Do I miss hugs? Of course. Life’s just not the same without tight embraces and gentle squeezes. Thank goodness for Archie’s head butts!
So naturally, people understand the pretend embrace thing right? It’s been around as long as cancer has really. I didn’t think about it too much when I arrived at a social gathering recently. “Chemo drugs, so virtual hugs,” I said confidently and performed my little routine. Did you ever play ‘broken telephone,’ when you were a kid? The first person whispers a secret and the next one passes it along the line. By the time the message reaches the end of the queue, it has become something else entirely. In fact, it’s not even vaguely recognizable. My innocent message had become, “Corona freaked, so keep away.” As a few people dropped their open arms and turned from me, I tried to rectify the situation. “I’m a cancer patient. It’s my immune system…” It was too late. I’d done the unforgivable. Hero to zero in five seconds flat.
My close friends rallied and soon I was swept along in the festive mood. Sparkling water looked convincing in my bubbly glass and when the music began, I hit the dance floor. The evening was a rip-roaring success and I enjoyed myself tremendously. But I did notice a few furtive glances and my lip reading skills made out the words, ‘paranoid’ and ‘neurotic.’ I was tempted to throw all caution to the wind and hug everyone on my way home. “What’s done cannot be undone,” floated across my fuzzy brain and much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t wave a magic wand.
In this Corona Virus time, people have begun retreating into laagers. “It’s only the old and fragile who really need to worry,” I hear around me. Unexpectedly, I find myself amongst the fragile ones. Who would have guessed? Panic and denial are vying for attention. We’ve become suspicious of one another. The blame game is already in full swing. The world has been turned on its head and no one knows how to right it.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. What if we all pull together and take care of one another? Archie is reminding me of supper time. He’s promising to reciprocate with a kneading massage, once I’m in bed.
Ubuntu is a concept I’ve always embraced and one worth remembering right now.