After my breast cancer diagnosis in December of 2012, there were certain close friends I wanted to tell about my diagnosis so they heard it from me personally and not secondhand. I remember sharing my diagnosis with a friend one evening. He knew I was a previous cancer survivor and this was going to be my second battle, so we were just chatting about it. Shortly after our conversation, a woman hurriedly put a green piece of paper in my hand, said "God bless you," and quickly walked away. Come to find out she had overheard the conversation I had with the friend and wrote me a personal note on whatever piece of paper she could find. It read:

I don't know what your name is, but I will say a prayer for the pretty blonde. God be w/ you!

To this day, I have that note. I read it at home again that evening and remember tears just ran down my face. She was a perfect stranger at the time and is someone I now see on occasion. She could have ignored what she overheard, but she took time to find a piece of paper and write a note to me. This perfect stranger had no clue that I would keep that note with me for the long run. I have since read it many, many times.

There were countless other strangers who had no idea at all I had cancer, but their kindness was noticed. It may have been a salesclerk at the checkout at a store, the person giving me a manicure or pedicure at the spa or a waitress who made small talk. It could have been the stranger who just smiled as he or she walked by. I suddenly took notice of those around me as never before, strangers especially. It felt so good just to run to the grocery store and have the lady at the checkout greet me with a smile. The kindness of such people made my day. Gestures these people just do, and don't think about, can certainly touch someone, and meant so much to me.

I have always been a social butterfly myself; however, I make it a point today more than ever to smile and make small talk wherever I am, with people I know as well as with strangers. I always make sure I tell people to have a nice day or nice holiday ('tis the season). What is etched in my mind is that I have no idea who some of these people are or what they may be facing. They could have cancer, for all I know, or another debilitating disease. Maybe they just lost a loved one. I took people's smiles and kind words to heart when I had cancer, was going through surgery, etc. I cherished their kindness. The quote below sums it up perfectly.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. — Ian MacLaren

We just don't always know what battles people are fighting, and it is honestly none of our business unless shared with us. Being kind, being friendly, giving compliments, offering a simple smile or small gesture can go a very long way, and you may never, ever know it! I wish I could thank all the people who touched me without even being aware of it. God bless them all. They are examples of who I strive to be. They were angels when I was going through a very tough time, especially with all the setbacks I had. I will continue to smile, make small talk and be friendly wherever I go. I can only hope the small gestures I offer touch someone as those of others have touched me!

Share Your Thoughts

What kind words did you receive after your cancer diagnosis? How did they make a difference? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Jennifer Pichelman was born in Racine, Wis. She graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin with an undergraduate degree in business management and communication. She recently celebrated 25 years with a manufacturing company in Racine and currently works in marketing. Jennifer was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1994 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Due to the radiation to her chest, Jennifer was told she had an increased risk of breast cancer, which her oncologist diligently screened for with mammograms and breast MRI's. She remained cancer free until December of 2012, when she was diagnosed with a secondary cancer, breast cancer. When a small mass was discovered after a mammogram, deep down Jennifer knew she had breast cancer. After biopsy results came back, Jennifer was formally diagnosed on Dec. 28, 2012 -- 3 days after Christmas.

Marloe Esch

I, too, feel like I see strangers in a different light, after getting a cancer diagnosis. We never know how simple acts of kindness and patience can make someone's day. Thank you for sharing!

Doug Vine

You are exactly right. Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas and may God Bless you!

Steve Lettau

Thanks you for sharing your uplifting story.
God Bless You!