As you battle cancer: Letter of hope, letter to you

Man with gray beard and glasses

We at HCA Healthcare believe that everyone has a story to tell, and those stories can help inspire, give hope, and empower people facing cancer. That’s why, last fall, Sarah Cannon, our Cancer Institute, introduced its Letter to Me campaign from Band Against Cancer.

The concept was simple – write a letter to reach patients facing cancer and their families in a new and impactful way.

Richard Forbes, a member of our Information Technology and Services (IT&S) team and cancer survivor, provided a letter of his own below to encourage others.

Dear Friend,

You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I am a 66-year-old cancer survivor who was diagnosed when he was 63. People my age tend to view cancer as a death sentence and quite honestly, that is exactly how I took the news.

If you are feeling this way let me give you some hope; a touch of comfort in the midst of the fear and uncertainty you find yourself in. Cancer treatment has come a long way in the past several years, and now we hope, and receive cures, where once the situation had been bleak, and hopeless. I wish I had been told about the success of various treatments when I first heard the “C Word”.

I like to say “C Word:” because when people hear that you have cancer they treat it like an unspeakable thing… it’s not. Cancer is something we have, and not who we are. All of the people who whisper in hushed tones when you are around saying such things as “He has cancer, isn’t that awful?” don’t understand how determined we are to beat this nemesis… to defeat the chaos that has invaded us. They also don’t understand how much courage it takes to go into battle with an opponent that would kill you if it could.

I went from frightened to despondent, to angry when I heard I had the “C Word”, and you may be at one of the stages too, but eventually you will need to reach the final stage… determined. Latch onto your faith (whatever that might be) and take solace in it, but also use it to bolster your resolve in overcoming the Cancer in your body. Let it give you comfort when you are feeling sick, and strength when you are at your weakest.

When all is said and done, you will have faced this demon, and by doing so, you will find that this is how heroes are made. I am now cancer free and have been so for over two years. But I will let you in on a dirty little secret… Once you have had cancer, every time you feel sick, or have an odd pain, you will wonder if it has come back. When this happens, don’t look at it as a weakness, everyone who has ever faced cancer feels the same way.

So maybe today you aren’t feeling too hopeful, but I have enough hope for the both of us. My prayers will accompany this letter, and my hope is more infectious than the cancer you are facing. My wish is for you to catch it, and face what lies ahead with optimism, and great Hope. You are never alone, as long as I have breath to mutter a prayer, or better yet… as you lift up your eyes in expectation.


Richard Forbes

Richard also left us with three pieces of advice for those who have the heart for this project but can’t seem to find the words.

    • Eloquence doesn’t matter. You have something to say that will be appreciated by these recipients. If there’s ever a time when the thought counts, this is one.
    • Write it like you would say it. Simple, wordy, lengthy, or short. Remember what has been inspirational to you during a tough time and pass that on. It could be exactly what somebody needs to read.
    • Take a chance. What is inspirational or empowering or meaningful to you, will also be to one of these deserving letter recipients.
    • What if you are the source of something so needed by somebody?

HCA Healthcare 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA Healthcare celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA Healthcare’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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