The Tokens


by Marco van Beers

When we are diagnosed with a severe illness our whole life changes. We can not do the same things anymore. Everyday activities like preparing dinner or walking the dog are just too intensive. Our social lives change even more. We lose one fourth of our social environment. That is quite a lot, especially at the moment we need them the most. But why do we lose so many close ones?

Often the social environment does not know what to say, so either they just don’t say anything at all or they find words (and courage!) which can be very painful to hear for the person who is ill. Comments like: “You look so well! You’re going to get better.” are full of good intentions, but when you know your treatment isn’t catching on and you know you are slowly dying, those words hurt.

It is not only the social environment’s ‘fault’. The person who is severely ill is literally surviving. That person just does not have the energy to have that conversation about his health over and over again. Therefore the social environment feels left out.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And it all starts at the beginning. There is this one inevitable moment after you have heard you have a life threatening illness. That is telling your social environment that you are ill. At that moment you can say to that special person: “Listen, I am very ill. And I don’t know if I am going to make it. But I want you to know you’re special. I want you to be part of my struggle. I want you to know that you matter to me.”

At that moment you can hand over one of the tokens (see image). They always come in a set of two, and they are connected with each other. At the moment you hand over one of these tokens they immediately become a physical representation and symbol of your relation. When that special friends is thinking of you he can pick up his token and start rubbing it. After rubbing it for a while the token slowly starts to glow more and more intense. Simultaneously the token of the person who is ill starts to glow. Giving this magical sensation of a special connection. It also works the other way around. If the person who is ill wants to show that they are thinking of a special friend they can pick up the token which represent that special friend.

In this way the tokens become a carrier of your experiences and emotions you had with each other, and the experiences and emotions you will have. They lower the hurdle to engage in interaction because they remove words. It reduces the energy to engage in that interaction for the person who is ill.

The tokens introduces a new dimension of communicating when you’re severely ill.

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