New Year’s Wishes For Friend With Cancer

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

It seems that I always have friends newly diagnosed with cancer. I would love to have the power to grant them wishes to make their cancer experiences a little easier.

In the spirit of the New Year, I am giving myself that power. So, if you were my friend and called me to say, “I was just diagnosed with cancer,” I would wish that you…

  • maintain as much control over your cancer and its treatment as possible.
  • realize that you can’t control everything about your cancer.
  • communicate freely with your doctors so that you understand their recommendations and they understand your wishes.
  • make treatment decisions with good information and thoughtful guidance.
  • don’t second guess those treatment decisions once they have been made.
  • speak up when you are in pain, nauseous, depressed or anxious so that those symptoms can be addressed.
  • listen to the rhythms of treatment so that you rest when your body needs it.
  • have friends and loved ones that provide you with support and kindness but not unsolicited advice.
  • are able to recognize what’s in the hearts of your friends even if their words of support come out awkwardly.
  • connect with others going through treatment so you have added support.
  • have co-workers and bosses that are understanding of your illness and are flexible with your schedule.
  • give yourself a mental break from cancer on a regular basis.
  • have loved ones that realize that your recovery will take time.
  • not blame yourself for having cancer.
  • continue to move forward with your life even if the future seems uncertain.

Each New Year is a milepost. Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, I wondered if I would be around for the celebration of the new millennium in 2000. That now seems like – and is – a long time ago. I’m happy to still be here and I look forward to sharing the next New Year with you.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s columns

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