The GuardianThe Guardian

I wrote 100 letters to my friend with cancer. It transformed our lives

By Alison Hitchcock

10 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

Writing in The Guardian, Alison Hitchcock describes how she offered to support a cancer-stricken friend by writing to him during his treatment. The experience proved beneficial to both of them.

As soon as I said it, I knew it sounded crazy. “I’ll write letters to cheer you up through your treatment.” Brian, sitting opposite me in the pub, back in the summer of 2010, looked bemused. He had just told me he’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer and I suspect he was hoping for a cure, not a correspondent. But when someone tells you something that devastating, I don’t think it’s unusual to feel awkward, helpless, and to say something you later wish you hadn’t.

Not only had I said I’d write (who writes letters these days, for goodness sake?),

I’d said they’d cheer him up. So they’d have to be funny, and what is funny about cancer? Brian later told me he went home that night thinking I was a bit weird. I couldn’t disagree.

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