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Send a Card

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.

A group of us from the Cancer Resource Center recently spoke with a class at Ithaca College. One student asked, “How can we help a friend who has cancer?”

Beth Brunelle, a member of our panel replied, “Send them a card.” She continued, “Although it might sound simple or trite, I love getting cards. My mailbox is full of medical bills. Getting a card makes me smile.” Email can be effective in transmitting information, but it’s not good at conveying kindness and warmth. Nor does it have a long shelf-life. Even a beautifully worded email tends to get buried in an electronic mailbox within a few minutes.

In contrast, cards go on the front of the refrigerator or on the kitchen table. A few years ago, I wrote about the “Thoughts and Prayer Tree” that Gary Stewart created for his wife, Mary Ellen, who was then receiving treatment. The tree was used to display cards and other messages of support that she had received. Mary Ellen said that she “never got tired of looking at it.”

One of my favorite programs at the Cancer Resource Center is a simple one: We provide greeting cards and postage stamps to students from Ithaca College and Cornell University who volunteer by writing notes of encouragement to individuals in our community who have been affected by cancer. Some students write about their own lives, but mostly say in one way or another, “I’m thinking of you.”

Cancer is a very high-tech disease in terms of diagnosis and treatment. But helping a friend with cancer can be pleasantly low-tech. Send a card. You’ll make a person smile.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here for all of Bob’s columns

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