For the past nine years, Valentine’s Day has carried an extra special meaning for me. Not only do I celebrate my love for all the people I hold dear, but I also celebrate the fact that one of them — my grandmother (or Nanny as I call her) — is still here for me to hug.
You see, my Nanny, 89, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She went through radiation treatment at the Intercommunity Cancer Center here in Pittsburgh, and she finished her treatment right around Valentine’s Day nine years ago. Her treatment was successful, and her doctors pronounced her cancer-free.
We were full of gratitude for her doctors and for the kind, compassionate staff at the cancer center who helped Nanny through her radiation. To celebrate the occasion, we decided to make Valentine gift bags and hand them out to all the patients and staff members there. We wanted to spread a little love, happiness and hope.
That was nine years ago, and we’ve gone every year since. We call our little effort Hugs from Nan. Our “hugs” are gift bags that we fill with candy, word puzzles, stuffed animals, games and any other fun Valentine items I come across. We make 50 bags every year, which is plenty to make sure every patient and staff member at the center gets one.
Every morning on Valentine’s Day, Nanny and I go to the center to hand out the gift bags — and plenty of real hugs, too. For many of the patients there, Valentine’s Day is a forgotten holiday, especially in the midst of something as heavy as cancer. Our Hugs from Nan bring a little joy into the equation, and often some tears, too. It’s always a touching morning, and such a fulfilling experience that I’m so happy I get to share with my Nanny.
Our Hugs from Nan morning always ends with a trip to Eat’n Park for breakfast. It’s one of Nanny’s favorite places to eat.
Here are some pictures from past years of Hugs from Nan. I look forward to sharing pictures from tomorrow’s trip in the coming week! Until then, I wish you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day!