Cancer With Grace

Bob Riter
Bob Riter

Grace is one of those qualities that we struggle to define, but recognize when we see it. People with grace always seem to do and say the right thing, and do so with honest kindness. Being graceful is never an act. It comes from the heart.

I sat down with my colleague, Kerry Quinn, to try to define what it means to live through cancer with grace. We identified people who seem to exude grace even in the midst of difficult treatment: Susan, Joy, Willard, Angie, Howard, Sharon, Skip, Carol, Don, Judy, Pat, and others too numerous to name.

What is special about them? These are the common elements:

  • People with grace understand that others also have challenges – some related to cancer, and others related to the full spectrum of life. People with grace always ask how you’re doing, and they truly want to know.
  • People with grace remain engaged in whatever gives them joy – their family, their garden, their pets, their books. Sometimes their health requires that they modify their level of engagement, but they still remain engaged at whatever level possible.
  • People with grace appreciate their health professionals and never fail to thank them. They also understand that those professionals aren’t infallible gods, but humans trying their very best.
  • People with grace direct their frustration and anger against the cancer, not against the people around them.
  • People with grace understand that their families sometimes need a break from cancer, so they seek out additional avenues of support. They turn to the Cancer Resource Center, their faith communities, and other organizations, in part, to give some breathing space to their loved ones.
  • People with grace make every support group better because they honestly care about everyone else in the room.
  • People with grace continue to add beauty and kindness to the world around them.

People with grace are by no means perfect. They get angry, tearful and scared just like everyone else who is struggling with a cancer diagnosis. But they’re somehow able to refocus themselves on the goodness that still exists in their lives. By doing so, they make us all better.

Reprinted with Permission of the Ithaca Journal
Original Publication Date: August 31, 2013

Not everyone can- or wants to – live through cancer with grace. And that is okay. Read Rodney’s thoughts on living with – or without- grace.

2 thoughts on “Cancer With Grace

  1. What a great post. Reading it made me think of my daughter’s fight with cancer and how grace and faith were common themes. She wrote many poems about the brutality of life and despair in her fight with cancer and this one addresses grace with faith.

    I Once was Lost
    A Childhood Cancer Survivor Poem
    © 2016 Christine Mulvihill

    Here I am drowning in the sea
    A sea of everything I don’t want to be
    A sea of all my failures and mistakes
    A sea of my tears and splitting headaches.

    Waves of sorrow wash over my face
    I go under with a silent grace
    I fall down deeper in my depression
    Deeper and deeper into my obsession.

    I’m overwhelmed with all my faults
    My skin is burning from the salts
    Salts of what I could have been
    If only I could have seen
    What the future has in store
    How soon I would reach the shore.

    Now my storm dried up in the sun
    Maybe I am a lucky one.

    Now I’m walking on water because I have Faith
    This tortuous dungeon I have escaped
    I hold His hand as He walks me to land
    I bend down and kiss the merciful sand.

    So happy to have found happiness again
    Now the sun overpowers the rain
    Amazing grace how sweet the sound
    I once was lost but now am found.

    You can read her cancer stories and poems at

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