To Hell & Back: Quotable Quotes

Collected by Alysa Cummings
Last Modified: March 15, 2004

OncoLink Poetry

It is easy to go down into Hell; night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air – there's the rub, the task.
– Virgil

Those who have learned by experience what physical pain and bodily anguish mean, belong together all the world over; they are united by a secret bond. One and all they know the horrors of suffering to which man can be exposed, and one and all they know the longing to be free from pain.
– Albert Schweitzer

If you are going through hell, keep going.
– Winston Churchill

Long is the way/ and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.
– John Milton, Paradise Lost

...cancer is only a word, like any other...The word reverberated...I gripped it in my mind's fist like a hot stone, unable to throw it far from me, letting it burn into my skin. I was angry. I wanted to hit people with it. Then, the next moment I wanted to make a prayer out of it, I wanted to write a poem with it...
– Rafael Campo

To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.
– Seneca

I train myself for triumph by knowing it is mine no matter what.
– Audre Lorde

There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and have recovered hope.
– George Eliot

The art of life is the art of avoiding pain.
– Thomas Jefferson

I have given a name to my pain, and call it 'dog.'
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.
– John Lennon

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
– Abraham Lincoln

OncoLink Poetry

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.
– Robert Frost

The art of life is to know how to enjoy a little and to endure very much.
– William Hazlitt

What happens when my body breaks down happens not just to that body but also to my life, which is lived in that body. When the body breaks down, so does the life.
– Arthur Frank

...When we long for life without...difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.
– Peter Marshall

True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.
– Charles Caleb Colton

Everyone who has ever built anywhere a 'new heaven' first found the power thereto in his own hell.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Hell is oneself; Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections. There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
– George Eliot

I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell . . you see, I have friends in both places.
– Mark Twain

No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.
– Antonin Artaud

...wherever you are is called Here,/and you must treat it as a powerful stranger,/must ask permission to know it and be known.
– David Wagoner

I walk down the street./there is a deep hole in the sidewalk./I fall in/I am lost...I am helpless/It isn't my fault/It takes forever to find a way out.
– Portia Nelson

OncoLink Poetry

I've looked at life from both sides now/ From win and lose and still somehow/ It's life's illusions I recall/ I really don't know life at all.
– Joni Mitchell

Death is not the enemy; living in constant fear of it is.
– Norman Cousins

Our care should not be to have lived long as to have lived enough.
– Seneca

As I see it every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself.
– Adelle Davis

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.
– Hippocrates

One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.
– Rabbi Harold Kushner

It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like.
– Jackie Mason

Money cannot buy health, but I'd settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.
– Dorothy Parker

The wish for healing has always been half of health.
– Seneca

Drugs are not always necessary, but belief in recovery always is.
– Norman Cousins

To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine.
– Henry Ward Beecher

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
– William James

Etymologically, 'patient' means sufferer.
– Susan Sontag

OncoLink Poetry

Suffering isn't ennobling, recovery is.
– Christiaan Barnard

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
– Dorothy Bernard

A healthy body is the guestchamber of the soul, a sick, its prison.
– Francis Bacon

An optimist is the human personification of spring.
– Susan J. Bissonette

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
– Albert Camus

I only know that summer sang in me/a little while, that in me sings no more.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
– Aldous Huxley

Sooner or later, everyone is a wounded storyteller.
– Arthur Frank

My wound evokes your healer. Your wound evokes my healer. My wound enables me to find you with your wound where you have the illusion of having become lost.
– Rachel Naomi Remen

Walk carefully, well loved one/walk mindfully, well loved one,/walk fearlessly, well loved one./return with us, return to us,/be always coming home.
– Ursula LeGuin

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
– Eleanor Roosevelt is the story you have been writing/all of your life, where no Calypso holds you/ against your own willfulness,/where you can rise/from the bleak island of your old story/ and tread your way home.
– Michael Blumenthal