20+ Inspirational Quotes About Terminal Illness


What do you say to someone who is dying? Even a person comfortable in every social situation might struggle to know how to talk to someone fighting a terminal illness. Though death awaits us all, a close friend or acquaintance contracting a terminal illness is not something most people deal with constantly. It is incredibly sad. 

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Here are some quotes to help you know what to say to someone who may be facing the end of life. Some are about never giving up hope.

After all, miraculous recoveries may be rare, but they happen. Some are about coping with the knowledge that the end is near. Finally, we also present some quotes about accepting a terminal illness. 

Motivational Quotes About Terminal Illness

A person suffering from a terminal illness is probably exhausted and may be in pain. He or she may be tired of hearing peppy reminders, “not to give up the fight.” 

Here are some quotes you may want to share with a friend or family member in this situation. You may also consider giving one of these gifts for terminal cancer patients

1. “Don’t let pain define you, let it refine you.” —Tim Fargo

This quote would be appropriate for someone still going through treatment for a terminal disease. Many times, pain comes with such treatments. Remind your friend that instead of focusing on the pain, think about how it is removing impurities from the body. 

But this quote can be interpreted on a deeper level. A person facing a terminal illness is more likely to remove the impurities or unwanted elements from their life. It’s a chance to focus on what is important. 

2. “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” —Robert H. Goddard

None of us know the future. Remind your friend to maintain a positive attitude and to keep hope alive. 

3. “Don’t lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come out.” —Unknown

A nighttime sky reminds us of the vastness of the universe. It reminds us of how small we are and how small our problems are.

4. “You can’t smooth out the surf, but you can learn to ride the waves.” —Unknown

There are things in life out of our control. The lack of control may be one of the hardest aspects of your loved one’s illness.

5. “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” —Robert Louis Stevenson

We have no control over the cards we are dealt in life. Remind your friend of this. 

6. “If the only miracle we are looking for is the big one... then we will most likely miss the other miracles that are unfolding before our very eyes, each and every day.” —Wayne Charlton

Your friend may need reminding of all the good things that are occurring while he or she is fighting the disease. For example, perhaps relationships were mended, or a person’s faith was restored.

7. “Optimism: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster; it’s more like a cha-cha.” —Unknown

We wish we knew who said this statement because it is sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face. 

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Quotes About Coping With Terminal Illness

When a person copes with a disease, he or she lives with constant uncertainty. They live with a tug of war between hope and acceptance.

How do you handle not knowing what the future holds? How do you handle not being able to make plans? Here are some positive messages for cancer patients and others who are coping with a terminal disease. 

8. “I have accepted fear as a part of life—specifically the fear of change. I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says turn back.” —Erica Jong

The fear of change and the fear of the unknown are common among those who have a terminal illness. 

9. “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, that the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” —Haruki Murakami

People tend to live life better when they have a near-death experience. The petty jealousies and squabbles of ordinary life seem so ridiculous to someone who recovered from a dreaded disease.

10. “The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing.” —Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi is the author of the best-selling book, “When Breathe Becomes Air.”

11. “Our fearlessness shall be our secret weapon.” —John Green

Fear doesn’t help fight against disease, so you may as well kick it out of the sick room.

12. “Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” —Christopher Reeve

Your friend may need a reminder to try to maintain hope until the end. 

13. “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” —Joseph Campbell

Fighting a terminal illness is never on anyone’s five-year-plan. Sometimes those plans have to change, and accepting this is an important first step toward recovery.

14. “There’s always going to be bad stuff out there. But here’s the amazing thing—light trumps darkness, every time. You stick a candle into the dark, but you can’t stick the dark into the light.” —Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has written many best-selling novels that focus on controversial topics. Her books include “My Sister’s Keeper” and “Small Great Things.” 

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Quotes About Accepting Terminal Illness

Are you looking for encouraging quotes to share with someone who is in the final stages of a terminal illness? It may help your friend if you remind him or her that we are all terminal. Here are some quotes about facing mortality. 

15. “We’ve all got a terminal disease. It’s called life.” —Benedict Groeschel

None of us are making it out alive. The earlier we realize this, the better. 

16. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” —A.A. Milne

A.A. Milne gave the world a bear named Pooh, and the world has been better because of it.

17. “What I know for sure is this: you are built not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more. To be more splendid. To be more extraordinary. To use every moment to fill yourself up.” —Oprah Winfrey

Some people use their disease as an excuse to share the truth about life, and others tend to listen to the dying. 

18. “She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.” —Ariana Dancu

Remind your friend or loved one of the beauty and strength she radiates, even as she faces the end of her life.

19. “Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” —Iain S. Thomas 

The family members of a terminal patient may not see much beauty in the world as their loved one is dying. 

20. “The strongest people I’ve met have not been given an easier life. They’ve learned to create strength and happiness from dark places.” —Kristen Butler

Share this with a friend who shows incredible strength and grace while facing an uncertain future.

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Share a Quote With Someone You Love

As you consider what words to share with someone with a terminal illness, you probably are feeling a lot of pressure. After all, these may be the last thoughts you share with someone you love. We hope that these quotes have given you ideas on what to say or write in a card.

But more important than anything else, make sure you tell your friend how much you love and appreciate them. Apologize to them if necessary, and thank them for being an important part of your life. Promise your friend that you will take care of uncompleted tasks and then share happy memories.

Don’t feel as if you need to fill in every moment with words. Sometimes the most poignant, heartfelt action is to simply sit in silence and hold your friend’s hand while he or she rests.

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