The Mighty Logo

15 People Who Have Had Cancer Share What Helped Them Most as Patients

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

If you or a loved one has ever received a cancer diagnosis, you might understand how important supportive friends and family can be. Sometimes, it’s the smaller, day-to-day things that mean the most. Picking the kids up from school, offering a hand to squeeze on a treatment day or just being there to share a laugh can make such a difference for someone who is living with the disease.

Fuck Cancer, an organization that focuses on prevention, early detection and support for people affected by cancer, asked its readers who have lived or are currently living with cancer to share the best thing someone has done to help them. We wanted to share some of their responses.

Here’s what they had to say.

1. “My nurses were great listeners. They were compassionate, and I felt like they genuinely cared about me.” — Emily Smurthwaite Freund

2. “Without me asking or saying anything, my neighbor would stop and get my kids to walk to the bus stop. Pancreatic cancer and chemotherapy were hard enough. She made my day a little easier.” — Lisa Bitzel Clevenger 

3. People just being kind and friendly have made difficult times more bearable. A smile goes a long way. — Hetti Spagoh


4. “The best nurse I had told me about how hard the fatigue was going to be… and she was spot on; it was brutal.” — Lucas Damm

5. “All my Facebook friends inspired me to fight and live strong. My parents wouldn’t let me give up. My doctors supported me.” — Jodi Lameo

6. “Expressions of sympathy have turned out to be more comforting to me than words of encouragement because sometimes you don’t know if you can believe the positive stuff. When someone expresses sympathy, they’re acknowledging how sh*tty it is, and that makes me feel like they’re really thinking of me and how I must feel.” — Rosaleen D’Angelo


7. “When I was first in the hospital and had just been diagnosed, my nurse sat up with me one night when I was terrified. She held my hand, and we just talked. She nodded and listened and validated my fears, and gave me honest answers and strength with her calm, gentle words.” — Sara Thompson

8. “A doctor telling me I’m an inspiration.” — Troy Waters

9. “Being treated like a normal human being. We aren’t fragile or brittle. We just want people to treat us like everyone else.” — Stephanie Carine Muir


 10. “When I had cancer, my kids were the most supportive. When I lost my hair, they colored on my head. When the hair started growing back they all put little barrettes in my hair. It made me laugh so hard.” — Sandra Lee Elliott

11. “My dad stayed two weeks in the hospital with me day-and-night so I wasn’t alone and scared, and he drives me to all my appointments. Breast cancer sucks, but when you have family and friends for support, it makes it bearable.” — Alisha Ann Pelt


12. “My best friends brought me food and took me grocery shopping. Also, my friends treated me as a person and not a person with cancer.” — Krystyna Pentlicki-Maloney

13. “My daughters, who were only 15, 12 and 8 when this started, refused to leave me. Even though it was ugly and I didn’t want them to see it all, they refused to hear that Dad’s or Grandma’s house would be better. They said they would soak in every last minute until I was gone or until I got better. (I’m getting better).” — Jennifer Silver


14. “Doctors coming to me before my surgery and explaining all the ins and outs of the operation to make sure I was fully informed.” — Sean Walsh

15. “After my second surgery, a friend used his hotel points so I could stay in a hotel to recuperate for a few days (since my daughter had just turned two and didn’t understand the concept of Mommy needing to recover). Another friend stocked the room with delicious food I could eat, gossip magazines and two beautiful scarves. She also went to the pharmacy to pick up my medicine. Other friends sent chocolate and a nightgown. Yet another sent a check with explicit orders to spend it on myself. I got a pedicure and a pretty dress and felt pretty for the first time in months. The list goes on and on! A gift from the heart does wonders.” — Vanessa Runnalls


*Some responses have been shortened and edited.

Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Originally published: June 7, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home