10 Simple Gestures of Kindness with Healing Power

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#12 in a series)

In my post on 10 Odd Things to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer, I said, “Trust me on this … the most effective and most appreciated gestures are the simple ones.” Seriously, if you’re ever wondering if you should pick up that phone, send that email, or bake some cookies for someone who is ill, please don’t allow awkwardness to stop you. Do it!

Allow me to share some simple kindnesses that meant the world to me.

1. My breast surgeon hugs me and my husband at every appointment. It feels genuine, and there’s a certain healing power in that.

2. One day my oncologist followed suit and spontaneously hugged me because he “admired my spirit.”

3. I received a postcard from the mail carrier I don’t even know. She’d heard from a neighbor that I had cancer and wanted to let me know that she cared.

4. One day I received an express package from an acquaintance halfway across the country. What could it be? Cookies. Beautiful, tasty cookies! The enclosed note said that she knew it was “kinda lame,” but she wanted to let me know that she was thinking of me. No, it wasn’t lame, I assured her. It was a perfect way to express a kind thought and I smiled the afternoon away. And we made short work of the cookies, too.

5. Like mystery elves, there are anonymous people who donate hand made hats and blankets to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and some who bring goodies like cookies and hard candies to share. These little treasures mean so much to the people receiving treatment. That blue crocheted shawl/blanket got me through some chemo sessions and will always serve as a reminder — not of chemo, but of the spirit of giving. Too bad the givers aren’t always around to see the recipient’s smile. When I’m better, I plan to do the same.

6. My long-distance family drove nine hours to spend a weekend infusing me with strength before I began treatment.

7. My long-distance kids took the time to visit with me, and spread out those visits so I could have plenty of one-on-one time with each of them. There’s no better tonic.

8. Then there are the people I hadn’t heard from in a long time, but who made the effort to call or send an email. I know it was awkward for some of them, and they were truly at a loss for words, but merely making the gesture is powerful enough.

9. Words cannot express how I felt when Care2′s founder, Randy Paynter, decided to “shine one glorious sunbeam of collective love” to “bring a little bit of karmic balance back to the world.” That particular sunbeam was aimed at me and, if I ever underestimated the power of words, I shall never do so again. Nearly a thousand people took the time to comment on the post, others sent a direct email, and still a few more sent cards. Words, when backed by true compassion, really do matter.

10. Friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve never even met have expressed concern through emails, comments on posts, and through Facebook and Twitter. It’s nice to check in and find a cheery note of support waiting like a gentle hug.

Sure, there are some people who surprised me by backing away, but to dwell on that would be a mistake. Those folks have their own problems and it’s not really about me.

Since the diagnosis of breast cancer, I’ve found it easier than ever to focus on the positive, thanks to the thousands of kindnesses, large and small, that have found their way to me.

How does one repay such generosity of spirit? By showing kindness to others, by shining a light on someone else who needs it, by saying a simple, “thank you.” These are not tasks to be checked off a “to do”  list, but a lifetime process.

Thank you.

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1 The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
#2 Most Breast Lumps are Non-Cancerous: Would mine be?
#3 The Mammogram, the Ultrasound, and “the Look”
#4 The Biopsy and Breast Cancer Confirmation
#5 A New Twist: It’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#6 Before the Mastectomy: Planning for the Future
#7 Mastectomy Day: What it’s like to lose a breast
#8 After the Mastectomy: Unveiling and Staging
#9 Ten Odd Things to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer
#10 Cancer Battle Plan Phase 2: Chemotherapy
#11 5 Things I Love About my Very Expensive Health Insurance

Access the up-to-date Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series

Breast Cancer in the News
Aggressive Breast Cancer Linked to Low Levels of Vitamin D
Mom Loses Custody of Kids for Having Breast Cancer

Coming Soon: Breast Cancer Survivor Profiles

Take Action! Sign the petition: We can end breast cancer by 2020

Author’s Note: This is article is part of a series chronicling my first-hand patient perspective of life with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Without being overly self-indulgent, I hope to convey the raw emotion that comes with such a diagnosis… and the process of living with and beyond it. Entries will appear in Care2 Causes and in Care2 Healthy & Green Living. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

For More Information:
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation
American Cancer Society

Image: iStockPhoto.com


Geetha Subramaniam

Thank you for sharing. This is a wonderful posting for those of us who never really "know" what to do for people who are very ill. I tie myself in knots trying to figure out the right time, and right thing! I feel more comfortable now about getting in touch.

Jane W.
Jane Warren8 years ago

For any potential "mystery elves" out there, here is a site for chemo caps - it's called Head Huggers.
Head Huggers home page: http://www.headhuggers.org/
With knitting, crocheted and sewn patterns to be found here,

Patricia G.
Patricia G8 years ago

My dear, I wish you all the best. I am deeply touched by your words and I will ask the Universe for you. Love, be safe, you are loved.

Barbara S.
Barbara S.8 years ago

Hi Ann, Your article brought tears to my eyes. I'm guilty of wanting to do things perfectly instead of just being
spontenious. You've made me realise that I should just DO IT and not worry about anything else. It's the caring that really matters. You really are inspiring.

Pauline McCarthy
Pauline McCarthy8 years ago

LoVe and Blessings to you!

Nancy S.
Nancy S.8 years ago

Helpful and inspiring, Thanks for giving those examples of kindness and what they meant to you. --All the best

Linda E.
Linda E8 years ago

Thank you for the inspiring article. I know that I for one often hesitate to do a favor for someone because it might not be "just right" or I don't have time to "do it perfectly." But now I feel freer to just connect and do a simple kind thing. Thanks again.

Jane W.
Jane Warren8 years ago

I have been procrastinating at knitting chemo caps ... but I shall try not to put it off much longer.
In my defence, I have been knitting blankets for the homeless, for the Blankets for Canada (an online national charity).

William Ford
William Ford8 years ago

I know that we already have cured any cancerous kinds but our govt keeps all away from us.

Vog V.
Vog V.8 years ago

Amazing, Healing power is jsut cool like that.