Random Acts of Kindness

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by

“In the end only kindness matters.”

— Jewel, “Hands”

Last week, I participated in a tweetchat about the value of kindness in medicine. While this topic is a no-brainer — yes, doctors and patients should be kind to each other — unkindness is rampant in medicine.

Being on the patient side of things, I’ve seen firsthand the harm caused by unkind medical personnel — from administrators to physicians. What amazes me is that so many unkind professionals (I realize this is an oxymoron) are face to face with patients every day. I’ve been treated so poorly by some medical people, it’s disgusting.

As my readers know, a second-opinion oncologist told me that I was in danger of dying (I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer then. Duh.). He flippantly told me that I shouldn’t even consider fulfilling my dream of having a child because I would orphan him or her.

How could he be so cruel? Couldn’t he see how frightened I was? How could this self-important, arrogant ass live with himself after making such a comment?

After that appointment, I got in the elevator and sobbed uncontrollably, as I fell to the bottom of my bottomless world.

A surgeon sneered at me when I tried to explain my fears to him. Another surgeon scolded me like a bad little girl for not removing organs he felt should come out. He was angry that my primary care physician and oncologist didn’t agree with him and he blasted me for it. A receptionist announced my business so loudly that everyone in the waiting room could hear it. Even before she opened her mouth, that day was an especially bad one for me. An MRI had revealed a possible recurrence in the breast that had had cancer a few years before, and I was weighing my chances of life and death. Luckily, the mass was benign — unlike the receptionist.

On the flipside, patients can be rude. A couple of doctors have told me that some patients have treated them harshly — from arriving to appointments late and then expecting to see the doctor immediately to just plain having a nasty attitude.

Kindness should reciprocal between patient and doctor.

In fact, the tweetchat I participated in got me thinking: kindness also matters outside of medicine. I know this is no grand epiphany, but it amazes me how often people are unkind to each other. So when the tweetchat moderator asked us to commit to one random act of kindness, I immediately thought of many random acts of kindness I could commit to. Of course, with only 140 characters to type per response and other participants wanting their say, it would have been unkind of me to dominate the tweetchat with all my ideas. So, here on this post, are five random acts of kindness that have been done to me and five random acts of kindness I’m committing to doing from this day forward. Not all of these are cancer-related, which is fine, and they are not listed in any particular order of importance.

Random Acts of Kindness Done to Me

1. In a chemotherapy room, when a nearby family saw that I was receiving chemo alone, with no loved one by my side, they took care of me. Although their daughter had a grim prognosis, her parents focused their attention on me, as well. They got me apple juice, a warm blanket, offered me treats, and so on. I was their other daughter for the day! I thanked them then, but I wish I could thank them again, in an e-mail or something. What they did that day was extraordinarily kind to me, and I will never forget them.
2. When one of the radiation machines was getting repaired, the wait to radiation treatment was understandably longer than usual. My radiation oncologist and her staff handed out potted violets to each of us patients for the simple act of waiting. I don’t know how they got so many violets so fast, but the doctor and other medical personnel worked their magic.
3. After my failed stereotactic core biopsy, my surgeon magically appeared and did the biopsy then and there. The nurses rubbed my legs and held my hand. For that act alone, I love them.
4. At times students or alumni write me an e-mail or a note telling me how much I’ve meant to them. I treasure these communications.
5. My daughter is kind. One time, I couldn’t help it but cried in front of her about the situation with my dad breaking his hip. We were in my parents’ home in Florida at the time after a stressful few days, and as I cried, she wiped my eyes with a tissue and told me that it would be okay.

Random Acts of Kindness I’m Committing To

1. I hope to make a positive difference in my students’ lives and help them.
2. I’m going to say something nice to a cancer patient and/or their loved one(s) while we are waiting to see our oncologists. This is the one I committed to on the tweetchat, and this random act of kindness will be the most difficult for me. Normally, I stay to myself, paralyzed by fear and sick to my stomach. But I want to reach out and talk to someone else who might be afraid. Maybe this will backfire — after all, everyone handles the waiting room wait differently, but maybe I can provide some comfort to somebody else.
3. I will tell at least one doctor how much I appreciate him or her.
4. I will reach out to others whose hearts may be heavy, just to see how they are doing.
5. I will be kinder to myself each day. I won’t berate myself for not exercising hard enough or for not accomplishing every goal. Instead, I will show myself the same kindness I show others.

Tree and light

Is there an act of kindness you received or gave? Please feel free to share; I would love to hear about it.

Is there any random act of kindness you’ve committed to? If so, please share.

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12 Responses to Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Kathi had this to say about that:


  2. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    Thank you for writing about this topic, Beth. As you know, I recently went through an unfortunate experience with a nurse. He was a little unkind to me and didn’t recognize my level of fear. But here’s something I think I missed telling you, it was our first interaction ever! So now I wonder if his tone came from my Onco or if I already have a reputation at my hospital. I will be regrouping with my medical team and will talk about this.

    There are kind people out there and I am so glad you came across a couple of them during your treatments. I remember you had to endure your treatments practically on your own, which was probably very difficult for you.

    I love your list of ‘acts of kindness’. I especially have thought of #1 a lot because the culture in my hospital is the same way — no one really talks to each other. And I am a talker! I am also curious and just enjoy learning about other people. But at the same time, I understand why people would want to keep to themselves. I will try this ‘act of kindness’ because I’ve been thinking about it for so long and haven’t tried it.

    I’ve been lucky to have found people who have been kind to me, starting with our online community. My doctors have been kind to me too. And my partner has been extremely kind to me as well. I don’t know what I would do without his love and support. It has made a huge difference in my life.

    I have a project in mind I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time, inspired by a childhood story I wrote about. The town where I come from is very poor. I personally know of a lady who has a “kitchen” where tons of children go eat there (sometimes she gets around 60 of them at a time!). She cooks for all these children. I want to start a charity or a fundraising for these children and get them toys and food. This will take me some time but my goal is to do it by next year. Wish me luck!

    Thank you for inspiring us to be kind to one another. xoxo

    • Rebecca had this to say about that:

      I meant ‘act of kindness’ #2!

      • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

        Rebecca, yes, that nurse who was unkind to you — maybe he is an unkind person to begin with. It’s so difficult to tell. Perhaps having a heart-to-heart with your oncologist is in order? It’s of course, really up to you.

        I think that, no matter how bad we have it, we will run across some act of kindness done to us, and this is encouraging to me.

        It will be interesting if you try Random Act #2 also! Frankly, I’m scared to try it, but I committed to it, so I will do it.

        Like you, I feel the online community has been so kind. Although I was cursed by having had cancer, I am blessed to know so many wonderful individuals in the blogosphere.

        The woman who feeds so many children in need is so encouraging. I think your goal of starting a charity for these children is wonderful. You will help so many people.

        You have had an interesting childhood and life. I’m wondering, have you considered writing a memoir? I think you have the makings of a great one.

        • Rebecca had this to say about that:

          Hi Beth — I see my onco in April so I will make sure to mention what happened. I also want to make sure we keep our good relationship — my life is in her hands…sort of. I like her.

          The “kitchen” lady is wonderful. I want to try to be involved somehow.

          About the memoir, yes, I have been thinking of writing one about my childhood. I’ve been working on short stories but it is so hard! I have a list of 11 shorts I need to complete (already know the themes). I’ve written a few. I need to do this. Thank you for encouraging me! xoxo

          • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


            Yes, you definitely want a good relationship with your oncologist. I’m glad you like her.

            Sounds like you’ve got a great short story collection in the making. I’d love to read your work when it’s published!

  3. Elaine had this to say about that:

    I’m sorry you’ve had unkind experiences….and i know how easy it is to be unkind to each other – patients and providers alike. But what a lovely post, and something to think about….it usually isn’t a huge effort or inconvenience to be kind….well, most of the time. And i suppose the more we practice, the easier it gets.

    I live in a foreign country, and I’ve found people to be generally helpful and kind with a little politeness and a smile. Just today I had a lovely conversation with the mailman, who asked me where I was from. These are small things, but they help with day to day life….and it makes me feel so much better.

    Anyway….thanks so much for posting this. ((((<3))))

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for reading my post and commenting. It sounds like people where you are living are really nice. I have found that it’s a crap shoot, especially in the medical arena, where I’ve had cruel medical personnel be mean to me and others who were my heroes.

      Thanks again for your readership. I appreciate it!

  4. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    What a great post. Practicing kindness is such a simple concept, but yet it’s not. Sorta comes back to the golden rule. And I often wonder why it’s sometimes so hard to be kind to ourselves. We matter too. xx

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your comment. Kindness seems so elusive when it comes to so many people. And I agree that it is sometimes so hard to be kind to ourselves. A post is ruminating about that, in fact.

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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