Nice People Abound in the Cancer World


One of the volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center recently said to me, “Every person I meet with cancer is nice.”

It’s an interesting observation and one that other volunteers have made as well.

Bob Riter
Bob Riter

I’ve been in the cancer world for more than 20 years and I think it’s generally true. Not because nice people are more likely to get cancer than cranky people, but because cancer tends to make most of us more humble and more appreciative of daily kindnesses.

You’d expect cancer patients to be angry at the world for having been dealt a crappy disease. Most do go through a period of anger or at least of cosmic irritation. But it doesn’t last long. We’re too busy dealing with treatment and moving forward with our lives the best that we can.

Cancer teaches us that we’re not invincible and that we have less control over our lives than we thought we did.

That’s humbling.

Our volunteers often strike up conversations with patients dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The volunteers are there to be helpful and they truly expect nothing in return. Patients intuitively understand this and appreciate that extension of kindness.

I also recognize that patients who reach out to support organizations like the Cancer Resource Center are, by nature, more social and more open to connecting than those who don’t reach out to us.

Although I have no data to base this on, I suspect that cancer patients feel more of a connection with their oncologists, oncology nurses, and radiation therapists than with any of their other health professionals.

People with cancer know that it’s a difficult disease for their professionals as well as for them. Nothing is certain and nothing is simple.

Not surprisingly, many cancer professionals are genuinely kind individuals. It’s a difficult career path if you don’t have a good heart.

The cancer world isn’t always a happy place, but there are good and kind people all around.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.
Original publication date: February 28, 2017

Bob Riter is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. He can be reached at [email protected]

One thought on “Nice People Abound in the Cancer World

  1. My wife Jane has always been nice. Even before she was struck with cancer. It is Stage 4 Bile Duct cancer and there is no cure. She did nothing to deserve this. She has always lead a nice life and helped people. People offered to pay her for her help, but she never took any money. I am 69 and in my life I have met so many mean, uncaring people who are perfectly healthy. This whole thing does not make any sense.

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