When your family is facing cancer, you might feel like you are continually running on fumes. You haven’t showered, gone grocery shopping, or slept nearly enough in the past week, and you are constantly bracing yourself for another round of bad news. When you feel like you’re ready to crack, the smallest act of kindness from a friend or a stranger can give you the spark that allows you to keep going.
CCRF asked three cancer parents and a cancer survivor to tell us about the moments where random acts of kindness from friends, family members or strangers helped them keep going. If you or someone in your family is fighting cancer, share this piece on social media and let us know your story of someone’s random act of kindness. Or read our piece How to Be the Friend a Cancer Family Needs to see how you can support families who are walking through their toughest times.
Robin – A Stranger’s Kindness
Robin is mom to Nate, a high school student from Stillwater High School who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January 2019. She remembers a time where she and Nate, on the way home from the hospital, stopped at the DMV to apply for a disabled parking pass for Nate, which he would now need since he was in the middle of harsh cancer treatments.
"The woman (quite possibly an angel) was so kind and immediately processed the request. She explained that it could take two months for the hanging placards to arrive in the mail and handed me two 90-day temporary permits. Then, she put her hand on mine and so sweetly wished our family the best. I was nearly brought to tears as I walked out of the building… and, if you know me, you know that doesn’t happen often."
Mindy – The Perfect Surprise
Mindy’s son Connor was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 6 weeks old. Connor is now in middle school, but Mindy still remembers the acts of kindness people offered her during Connor’s treatment, now over a decade ago.
"I remember the random knock, and my confusion as strangers were standing at our door. They were holding bags and boxes of food. They didn’t know, but we hadn’t been to the store in many days. Connor was immunocompromised and we were all trying to avoid winter germs and experiencing extreme exhaustion. I cried. I cried big, ugly tears of gratitude and felt a spurt of energy come back to cook dinner that night. It was a light that we needed."
Laura – An Unexpected Community
Laura, whose son Zach passed away from osteosarcoma in May 2013, still remembers so many of the kind things her friends and neighbors did for her family, especially in the year that Zach knew his cancer was terminal. The final year of Zach’s life showed Laura and her family the strength of the community around them.
"My mom’s close friend wrapped all of our Christmas gifts for the kids the year Zach was diagnosed.
"One of the firefighters I worked with plowed our driveway every time it snowed. I woke up Christmas morning and the driveway and sidewalk were cleared even though it snowed hard all night. I bawled my eyes out.
"My siblings bought us Rock Band video game. It was awesome because we got to play it together, and Zach loved playing it after he was done with his online classes.
"People brought us meals for several weeks – always a wonderful act of service. They dropped them off every night which meant I didn’t have to go to grocery shopping or do any of the other meal prep stuff. It saved us a ton of money and allowed a little social interaction every day (but not too much, which was also nice). Even the guys who I was on the fire department with dropped meals off for us. One time the fire chief brought a meal after he went on a call – it was splashed all over from the fast turns – it was pretty funny.
"Our daughter Grace’s friends were amazing about making sure she was taken care of and was having some fun. They even took her on trips with them.
"My sisters completely took over planning our daughter Alli’s wedding when it became apparent that Zach would die around the same time. I can’t believe we lived through that."
Katrina – Words of Advice
Katrina was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when she was 17 years old. Now 10 years past her diagnosis date, Katrina still remembers some of the things friends and family did to support her family and offers some advice to anyone who wants to know how they can help someone going through a hard time.
"We had a family friend ask for a list of all the Christmas gifts my mom and dad wanted to buy. My mom sent along some cash and three hours later, our Christmas shopping was finished.
"Remember the dates that are important to the family. Set a reminder on your phone or pull out your planner and write down important dates. August 9 will forever be the day I was diagnosed with cancer. Parents, family and friends didn’t forget the important dates, and it wasn’t a difficult thing to do for us.
"Don’t say, "Call me if you need anything.' You won’t ever receive a call. Try to anticipate what is coming next. Friends picked up my siblings every day from soccer practice with a snack in hand. Neighbors dropped off meals every Tuesday night. Others filled our cars with gas. The offers were specific, which made it easier for our family to say yes."