The latest research, insight, and learnings in supportive cancer care.

The Power Of A Letter During Cancer Treatment

Amelia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March 2017. Two surgeries later and undergoing radiation therapy, she googled anything and everything she could about cancer. She was, in part, looking for medical information but also searching for forms of comfort and support. She found several helpful resources including Treatment Bag, an organization providing cancer-friendly gifts and services.

And then she received a letter. The letter was simple, yet perfect. Upon opening the envelope, she felt a sense of comfort and connection. It instantly reduced the feelings of isolation and loneliness she so often experienced.

To this day, she doesn’t know the writer of that letter she received in January 2018, but she still remembers they told her about the flowers in their garden. It reminded her there was life going on beyond her cancer, more than the doom and gloom which pervaded her life.

Amelia kept that letter in a box so she could reread it whenever she chose. It was a constant reminder that a stranger had given her a gift, and from this she took great comfort.

Amelia’s cancer, as for so many, was far more than a medical condition. It was a new normal; a way of life; an ever present uncertainty. She had never before felt such a strong need to connect and seek comfort from others.

Amelia’s letter is one of thousands of letters from an organization called From Me to You.

What is From Me to You?

Created by Brian Greenley and Alison Hitchcock, From Me to You was inspired by the power that letters had on their relationship during Brian’s cancer journey. When Brian was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010, Alison offered to write letters to cheer him up. The letters became part of Brian’s recovery process, while Alison discovered a passion for writing she never knew existed. Following Brian’s remission, in 2017 the pair founded the charity, From Me to You, dedicating their time to get as many people as possible writing letters to reduce the impact of isolation that cancer can cause.

In its early days, the charity provided writing tips and workshops for those who had a friend or family member living with cancer that they wanted to connect with. This soon developed into what it is today, a letter writing community who wishes to donate letters to anyone with cancer.

Through the Donate A Letter program, these letters are distributed to people living with cancer no matter where they are —  at home, at hospitals, in hospice care, or in cancer centers.

Unlike a pen pal service, these letters aren’t meant to receive a response. Instead they’re a gift - something meant to distract the recipient and brighten their day.

Both the writer and the recipient benefit. Research shows that a routine of letter writing can increase levels of contentedness and lower instances of depression, while for the reader it can lift their mood, provide comfort, and offer a feeling of space from their cancer treatment. Plus, isolation and loneliness can impact the recovery of a cancer patient as adversely as smoking and obesity.

The Impact of a Letter

“I can no longer work or socialise. The letters connect me back to a world I hope I’ll return to. Knowing someone out there is thinking of me is such a comfort.” - Recent letter recipient
“I felt much more connected to people,’ she said. ‘And it felt good to share experiences. Letters are so different to social media – the writer has gone to more effort.” - Amelia

As a child Amelia had written letters to friends and penpals. The donated letter inspired Amelia to reach out again to people by letter, to connect in that special and powerful way.

In 2020, living in the UK and still receiving treatment, Amelia decided she wanted to give back the comfort she had received. She wanted to remind others with cancer that kind acts were going on and that they could benefit from them.

“I wanted to give them a pick-me-up.”

She wrote 56 letters over the next two months.

These 56 donated letters had a profoundly positive impact on Amelia. “There’s something very creative in thinking what you can fit in an envelope. And as you hunt for the uplifting anecdote or sentence, you are at the same time uplifting yourself. For so much of the time you are going through cancer, you feel you are asking for enough from the medical profession, but your needs go so much beyond that. We need to keep connected, feel supported, allowed to smile. A letter does all this.”

If you would like to learn more about Amelia’s story, you can reach out to her here.

How to Get Involved in From Me to You

Anyone can sign up for their Donate A Letter program here. This year, they will have delivered 10,000 letters to people living with cancer.

People living with cancer can sign up for the Receive a Letter program here. They can choose to receive just one letter or one letter a month for 6 months.

They also run Donate A Letter workshops online every quarter if you’re feeling a bit of writer’s block. For anyone located in the UK, they hold in-person workshops with local community groups.

What’s Next for From Me to You?

This April they published their first book, and it will be available as an audiobook in 2024. They’re excited to continue sharing their story and the power of letter writing with even more people. In 2023, they started setting up regional hubs to bring their national initiative into more local communities, and they will continue this work into 2024.

For questions on From Me to You, reach out here.‌


The Health Benefits of Writing a Letter | Sharp HealthCare. Sharp.com. Published April 2020. Accessed October 6, 2023. https://www.sharp.com/health-news/the-art-and-benefits-of-letter-writing

Toepfer SM, Cichy KE, Peters P. Letters of Gratitude: Further Evidence for Author Benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2011;13(1):187-201. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-011-9257-7

Loneliness has same risk as smoking for heart disease - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. Published June 16, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2023. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/loneliness-has-same-risk-as-smoking-for-heart-disease

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