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Littlest Cancer Patient
Even worldwide climate collapse is powerless to kill him.

EMT: Ma’am? Did someone order an ambulance for The Littlest Cancer Patient?
LUCY: OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU.
HEARTSTRING #79: *does not tug*
SCREENWRITERS: What?
AUDIENCE: Oh, whatever. Like you were going to kill off The Littlest Cancer Patient.

A particularly risky form of The Woobie, which is much more likely (though not inevitably) to fail than be successful with the audience. The Littlest Cancer Patient, as you may have guessed from the title, is a small child, rarely over the age of twelve, with some form of terminal disease. This character's sole reason for existence is to tug your heartstrings so hard they're torn from your chest.

The Littlest Cancer Patient has a rather specific form of Contractual Immortality. They may find themselves on a plane that gets hijacked by terrorists, menaced by the Monster of the Week, in the path of a huge tidal wave, or in any form of danger. But rest assured — the only thing allowed to kill them is their illness. And that will rarely happen in the course of the story unless the writer(s) really wanna punch you in the gut.

Often we find Littlest Cancer Patients to be Wise Beyond Their Years. Occasionally they are used to give a Pet the Dog moment to The Big Guy, The Lancer, or sometimes even a Dirty Coward. Another common use is for an athlete to swear to win a game or match for the sake of this poor, sick child, never taking to mind the possible repercussions if they failed to do this. Nowadays, though, you can expect cruel subversion for that. (Hilarious subversions work too.)

See also Soap Opera Disease, Victorian Novel Disease, Ill Girl, Inspirationally Disadvantaged.

Compare Morality Pet and Too Good for This Sinful Earth. Often the target of Kids Are Cruel. If someone works to earn money (legally or not) to pay for the poor child's treatment, this is a Healthcare Motivation.

This is often Truth in Television, unfortunately. The Other Wiki has more information on this subject, and let's leave it at that.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisements 
  • Of course, every single ad from a foundation for kids with cancer. Every. Single. Ad. Though, to be fair, it's hard to see how they could make an ad for such a foundation and not have a Littlest Cancer Patient.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in an episode of Monster Rancher, where Gentle Giant Golem meets a young Ill Girl with a terminal illness and enters a combat tournament to raise money for her treatment. Turns out she and her father are con artists, and in a further subversion, they even get away with it. (Though she at least mentions to her father that she thinks they should retire as they leave).
    "Golem wanted girl to get better. Girl is better. Golem happy."
  • Ojamajo Doremi: Naisho's twelfth episode had a leukemia patient, Nozomi or "Non-chan", who lived out her dream of becoming a witch for a day thanks to the girls, but died before the Witch World could make it a reality in the future a day later. There was a patient younger than her who was allowed to go out of the hospital in the end though.
  • This is the primary basis for Full Moon o Sagashite, in which the main character is a child with throat cancer who dreams of becoming a singer. She repeatedly refuses the operation that would save her life because it would require the removal of her vocal cords.
  • In a filler arc of Naruto, a group of Genin from the Hidden Star village use a special meteorite to train, which amplifies their chakra but puts a great strain on their bodies. The youngest of these is one of the unfortunate ones whose body cannot handle the strain, and after looking at his damaged chakra network with his Byakugan, Neji states that the boy doesn't have long to live. It doesn't need to be said that he makes a full recovery, right? Hooray for Tsunade.
  • A surprisingly well-done and heartbreaking case in the Naru Taru manga, Action Mom Jane Franklin teams up with Shiina to rescue her son Robert, the LCP of the story, who is also a Dragon Bearer, and who's been kidnapped by the Japanese government so they can use him for their purposes. The child even dies in her arms peacefully after they rescue him.
  • Hayate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. That the villains were doing what they did because they thought it would save her life placed them in the Hero Antagonist side of the morality scale.
  • Yuuya, the cute Ill Boy from the seventh and eighth volumes of CLAMP's Tokyo Babylon qualifies, although he has a rare kidney disease rather than cancer. Not only does he rack up massive Moe points with the audience, he's also the indirect cause of Seishirou's eye being destroyed, as his mother crossed the Despair Event Horizon, then went batshit crazy and tried to tear Subaru's kidney out, and instead ended up gouging his Seishirou's eye out right in front of him... resulting in even more angst and woe.
    • For worse, Yuuya had a twin sister named Maya. She was this in the past, and then she died.
  • In Angel Beats!, Otonashi's little sister Hatsune dies young from an unspecified illness that left her in the hospital for much of her childhood.
  • In one episode of Vandread, while tending to one planet where the residents are largely ill due to bad conditions in their atmosphere, Bart strikes an Inter Generational Friendship with a little girl named Shirley who loves to hear his exaggerated tales of what they've gone through up till this point. She is happy to hear all that, and begins working on a doll bearing his resemblance, which lets people know they existed and left something behind. When a Harvester Fleet shows up to try and kidnap some of the population, Bart goes into Papa Wolf mode and does a You Shall Not Pass on them. Unfortunately, Shirley dies from her illness while he was protecting the planet, and was never able to sew the doll's hair on... so Bart instead shaves his head bald to match the doll she made.
  • Subaru has the titular character's brother Kazuma, who is suffering from a brain tumor.

    Comic Books 
  • "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man", a classic Spidey story, features one of these.
  • Yes, one showed up in Empowered. Yes, the title character gets sent over by the local "Make-A-Wish" people. Yes, he always wanted to be a supervillain. Yes, he actually becomes one.
  • The entire plot of a Jack Chick tract called "The Little Princess". Heidi is dying of an unknown disease, but manages to go out for Halloween one last time, connected to an oxygen tank. After meeting the new neighbors, who give her a tract, she is converted to Christianity along with her family.
  • Transmetropolitan has like twenty of these, including a kid who's being used as a growth bed for cancer preventing genetic plug-ins (guess how that works), a kid who has to pawn off her doll for appetite reducing medication, a kid with mutated necrotizing fasciitis, a kid being sexually abused by her older brother and several child prostitutes. There's even "victimbots" in the shape of sad children released into crowds to make disasters more tragic and TV friendly.
    • By the way, most of these kids are used to illustrate just what a Crapsack World The City is, and don't really get much better. The child prostitute one is particularly jarring because the issue makes very clear that these kids are already broken, on a fundamental level, and nobody will be able to give them the help they need because it's already too late.
  • Issue ten of All-Star Superman features these, with it being mentioned that Superman makes regular trips to hospitals to try and give some comfort to terminally ill children. As the story deals with Superman facing his own approaching death, the issue also features attempts made to cure his own condition. When this ultimately fails, he's not at all bothered, explaining that the unsuccessful attempts to repair his Kryptonian body would easily cure any human illness. The issue ends with Superman returning to the hospital and apologizing that he won't be able to make it for the next trip... but the children would all be going home before then anyway.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Part of a plot device in JLA Watchtower. A fund-raiser for a San Francisco children's hospital had some rare Titans action figures and memorabilia up for sale, with her heroes themselves guarding the memorabilia and interacting with fans. One of the action figures goes missing turns out it was the older brother of Littlest Cancer Patient, trying to get the ultimate Christmas gift for what was likely to be her last Christmas.
  • A Powerpuff Girls fan fiction, "Death Of A Powerpuff Girl", dealt with a classmate, nicknamed "Blueberrie" (as her mother baked blueberry muffins for the class) who had leukemia. At a sleepover with the girls, Bubbles sneaks some Chemical X in Blueberrie's water, which winds up giving her Powerpuff superpowers. She becomes a fourth Powerpuff, only the leukemia starts to lessen her powers. The girls are felled by an alien monster, so Blueberrie flies up and takes the full force of the alien's ray. The girls fight back, but Blueberrie succumbs to her disease at the end. Her parents give Bubbles the comfort to know that as a Powerpuff, Blueberrie had been at her happiest in many months.

    Film 
  • Sandman's daughter in Spider-Man 3, whose illness provides the impetus for his criminal activities.
  • The Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy featured Cancer Boy, a tragically afflicted child who was played for laughs. His inclusion in the film was one reason why it was buried by the studio.
  • Played completely straight in The Day After Tomorrow (pictured above).
    • Figuring out what happens to him after the total destruction of all medical infrastructure in the US will be an exercise left to the viewer.
  • The weeping, screaming, hideously-deformed Baby from Eraserhead fits this description, except that it is not The Woobie.
    • Rather infamously, David Lynch refuses to explain what The Baby really is made of.
      • Hmmm... Ever read "Pickman's Model"?
  • Subverted in Quarantine, where the sick little girl who fits most of the markers of this trope has The Virus. "It's just bronchitis!" screams her mom, right before being messily devoured.
    • And thus, subverted as well in [REC], the Spanish horror movie Quarantine is based on. "ˇSon anginas!" says the mother... And then the girl bites her face and runs away.
  • Bethan in Very Annie Mary is an older than usual example (she's sixteen). Part of the film's plot revolves around the efforts of the people of her small Welsh hometown to raise the money to send her to Disneyland, when she'd rather have a new sound system.
  • Parodied in Cecil B. Demented, where the adorable cancer patient at a benefit is shown to be an annoying little jerk who probably deserves to die. He does, a few minutes later, when the charity worker he was tormenting shuts off his respirator while everyone else is distracted by Cecil's kidnapping of a Hollywood star present at the benefit. Then again, did you expect anything less from John Waters?
  • Parodied once again by the character of Lisa Davis in Airplane!; her IV keeps getting ripped out and she has to reattach it herself before she flatlines.
    • This is based on a character played by Linda Blair in Airport 1975.
  • In Thank You For Smoking, the anti-smoking Moral Guardians attempt to use "Cancer Boy" as a trump card in a television appearance against tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. It backfires, after which point one Moral Guardian even complains to his aide that the Littlest Cancer Patient they picked wasn't sick enough.
  • Half of the plot of The Ultimate Gift revolved around an arguably not littlest cancer patient. However the writers do use her to the fullest heart string yank effect possible.
  • The Kevin Costner film Dragonfly has several of these. The drawings they churn out illustrating their nearly-identical dreams border on Room Full of Crazy, but Costner tracks down the symbols to realize the kids aren't just hallucinating on meds.
  • In the film version of 1408, it's shown in flashbacks that Mike Enslin's daughter Katie died due to an unspecified disease before the movie, an event that caused him to start investigating haunted houses... and hotel rooms. At one point in the room, Mike sees a vision of her, hugs her... and she dies in his arms, driving him over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Gojira: After Godzilla devastates Tokyo, there's a closeup of a little boy with a Geiger counter waved around his face.
  • Everywhere in Patch Adams.
  • Sam, the twelve-year old main character from Ways to Live Forever.
  • Fuzzy in The Cider House Rules has fetal alcohol syndrome, along with a deformed heart and severe asthma, and is confined to an oxygen tent. When he dies, Dr. Larch tells the other orphans that he was "adopted".
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe has a B-plot concerning Scully's attempts to save a Littlest Cancer Patient with Sandhoff disease, resulting in a conflict between her religious faith and her faith in science. If this sounds a bit too subtle for you, the kid is even named Christian.
  • The legendarily bad American remake of Hong Kong horror The Eye has a cute little cancer patient, played by... Chloe Moretz??
  • The plot of Hello Brother (Korean: Annyeong, hyeonga) revolves around this trope.
    • Annyeong, Hermano.
  • Elysium: Leukemia, specifically. Part of the reason why Max is going on his mission.
  • The Distinguished Gentleman: The protagonist, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, is a con man who scams his way into Congress, expecting to get handed a ton of money for his votes. What he doesn't count on is having actual constituents with actual problems. When his staff tries to kick out a mother and child, the child's wig falls off, shocking Johnson enough to listen to their story. It turns out that the little girl contracted cancer from high voltage power lines located too close to her house, and there's a bill pending that would regulate them. This triggers Johnson's conscience.
  • Shallow Hal uses a variation on this. Hal and Rosemary visit a Pediatric Ward at a hospital and spend time cheering up the kids. When Hal later returns after the hypnotic spell on him that allowed him to see people's inner beauty is lifted, he sees a little girl again whom he had previously met — she's a burn victim. Emotionally overwhelmed by this reveal, he hugs her in comfort.

    Literature 
  • The Radix: Subverted. Andrea Starr, a pretty 4 year old girl with spastic cerebral palsy, is mentioned in the beginning. Since the focus of the story is a search for Panacea, you could expect her to play some role in it. However, she's never mentioned again.
  • Jessi's Wish in The Baby-Sitters Club series. Other books had children with deafness, Down's Syndrome and autism. In one of the Super Specials, Stacey befriended a wheelchair-bound boy who was about to have surgery for a heart condition. May extend to Stacey herself, who was diabetic. In another book a babysitting charge has to adjust to blindness.
  • Bailey Graffman in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
  • The book and movie Thank You For Smoking has its main character deliberately set up to share a talk show stage with a Littlest Cancer Patient and thus be ruined; he manages to actually get out of it with better publicity than before. Parodied in that afterwards, he is revealed as a hired actor.
  • Connie Willis's novel Passage has Maisie, on the list for a heart transplant. But she's a tough kid; she reads as many books as she can get about disasters, to remind herself that death happens to everyone. Her mother, on the other hand, is in deepest denial. None of this affects her status as The Woobie.
  • Subverted in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. Terrorists taking over a Spanish theme park take a group of tourists hostage, including a contingent of terminally ill children, one of whom is the very incarnation of the trope, the little girl cancer patient in a wheelchair who's just so damned 'nice'. Then when their demands are refused, they shoot her in the back and leave her corpse to wheel out the front gate, still in the wheelchair. Needless to say, while the other terrorists are taken out quickly and cleanly, the executioner receives a rifle bullet to the spleen (courtesy of the sniper who watched him kill the LCP) An extremely slow and painful death follows. To be fair, the squad's leader (Ding Chavez) makes his displeasure known to the sniper after the mission... but no one really is displeased.
  • Older Than Radio: Although it's consumption she has, little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin definitely qualifies. When she dies a peaceful and saintly death, all the slaves present convert.
  • Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is likely the Urexample .
  • The half-Clan boy Rydag in Jean Auel's The Mammoth Hunters exemplifies this trope. Oh, and Kids Are Cruel, too.
  • Orlando Gardiner in Tad Williams' Otherland is dying of progeria, yet maintains an active online life in the Meta Verse until his disease takes a turn for the worse, which conveniently coincides with him becoming trapped in the Grail Network. Subject to a lot of Wangst, naturally, although it's also subverted when after his body dies, the Other makes a virtual copy of him.
  • The book My Sister's Keeper deals with a Littlest (well, Teenaged) Cancer Patient, Kate, and her relationship with her little sister, Anna, who was born specifically to be her blood donor. Eventually, Kate needs a kidney and Anna wants control over her own body. In the end everyone gets what they want: Anna gets medical independence... and is promptly hit by a car, thus giving Kate her kidney anyway. It should be noted that Kate actually encouraged her sister to get independence in the first place, not wanting the other girl to be just her donor. However, the Film of the Book has an entirely different ending - Anna gets her medical independence after Kate passes away.
  • Helen Burns from Jane Eyre seems to embody this trope along with Too Good for This Sinful Earth.
  • Beth March from Little Women. Played heartbreakingly well.
  • Toby in James Morrow's City of Truth. In which nearly everything is played for laughs, but the illness of the protagonist's son is truly heart-breaking. Morrow loves this sort of Mind Screw.
  • Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt's Oscar and the Lady in Pink is so this trope. At its worst.
  • Laura and Eileen from Laura und der Silberwolf ("Laura and the Silver Wolf") by Antonia Michaelis.
  • The protagonist in the short story Daddy's World is a combination of this and And I Must Scream.
  • Dinah the little blind girl in The Langoliers isn't terminal per se, although she is on the flight to get an operation to fix her eyes. And then she gets stabbed in the heart.
  • Sam, the eleven-year old main character from Ways to Live Forever (twelve in the film adaptation).
  • One of the patients in the hospital ward that the protagonist of Penny from Heaven stays in is a little girl with blood cancer. She doesn't survive.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Seinfeld plays this one for laughs. In "The Wink", Kramer accidentally sells George Steinbrenner's birthday card to a sports memorabilia shop, who then gives it to a terminally ill kid. Paul O'Neill then has to hit two home runs in order to get it back.
    Kramer: Two? Sure kid, yeah. But then you gotta promise you'll do something for me.
    Bobby: I know. Get out of this bed one day and walk again.
    Kramer: Yeah, that would be nice. But I really just need the card.
    • Also subverted with Donald the Bubble Boy. Lacking an immune system and forced to live in a plastic bubble, he's a bitter and rude boy who's still completely beloved by his community.
  • Parodied on Arrested Development, where Maeby assumes the identity of a teenage girl with a terminal disease called "B.S." in order to make some quick cash. Nobody realizes that "Surely Fünke" (Surely, as in the opposite of Maybe...) isn't a real person.
  • A Littlest Cancer Patient died in "Angels and Blimps", an episode of Ally McBeal, but he was played by Haley Joel Osment, so it wasn't really that sad. He was a tough lil' guy who decided to sue God and thought Ling was his Guardian Angel.
  • Viciously subverted in Babylon 5's "Believers" as part of J. Michael Straczynski's personal war on (former trope) "Cute Kids And Robots": when an alien family's religious beliefs forbid surgery on their critically ill son, Dr. Franklin goes ahead and performs it anyway — only to have the family calmly and ritually kill the boy afterward because according to their beliefs opening his body up allowed his spirit to leave it.
    • "Believers" sounds similar to a story arc in Peter David's Deep Space Nine novel, The Siege. One of the beings stranded on Deep Space Nine is a pre-teen alien boy with a terminal disease, but the parents won't let Dr. Bashir (easily) cure him because it's against their religious beliefs. Bashir traumatizes the mother into giving consent, whereupon the father (who's a supreme religious leader) condemns them for heresy and banishes them from ever returning home.
    • And in the second season episode "Confessions and Lamentations", where a whole race has a terminal disease and Delenn encourages a small child to believe everything will be all right. Dr. Franklin finds the cure and dramatically bursts in on the quarantine zone... to find it full of cute little corpses. The epilogue includes a newscast mentioning that the plague wiped out the entire race, and, indeed, that type of alien is never seen again in the series. There were comments on set about holding a mass burial for the race's prosthetics.
  • One Stargate SG-1 episode had a bald little kid genetically engineered by the Reetou to communicate with Stargate Command without panicking them. They were pretty rushed and he ended up in a hospital bed suffering the effects of imminent organ failure in multiple systems, and ended up being taken off by the Tok'ra to become a host; he was a much more understated and reasonably done example than most on this page.
  • Heavily subverted by Peter David again in Star Trek: The Next Generation novel, Strike Zone: the "cancer" patient is an older teenage alien with pheromones or something and influences Wesley Crusher, pretty young at this point, to spend most of the book exhausting himself researching the fatal disease ("The Rot"). Then on a promise of a cure, the CP betrays Starship Enterprise to other aliens, who promptly shoot him dead. Oh, and Wesley doesn't find a cure anyways.
  • House:
    • House shows little sympathy towards his Littlest Cancer Patient and is cynical about everyone else's reactions. Of course, that's the point of the character. It should also be noted that this episode provided some good mockery of Chase when the twelve-year-old girl talked him into kissing her. However, House was substantially nicer to her (at least to her face) than most of his patients, and when she explained to him why she didn't want to die yet by asking, "Who would take care of Mom?" he looked the closest he's ever come on the show to crying. A bit of a case of using the trope for a Pet the Dog moment - it showed that House is human after all. He just refuses to patronize the kids by treating them any differently because of their illness, which probably stems from his own experience with being disabled.
    • There are Wilson's patients. "Bald-headed cancer kids" is probably the kindest thing House has said about them...
    • Played for Laughs rather amusingly lately when Wilson was caring for a LCP whose mother wasn't allowed into the hospital because of a CDC-related lockdown; despite his sweet, well-meaning attempts, he kind of fails at comforting her, and gets a stuffed lamb in the face for his trouble.
    • Mocked in the episode "Here Kitty" where there is a cat that appears to have the ability to predict a person's imminent death by seeking out that person's company. House tests this by bringing the "therapy cat" into the hospital's child pediatric ward and sets the cat amongst the children.
  • ER:
    • It had a Story Arc dedicated to one of these, the head doctor's son.
    • Dakota Fanning also had a role on ER as a kid with leukemia who'd been in a car accident. That's Littlest Cancer Patient Up to Eleven right there.
  • Molly in Heroes has a life threatening anti-supers virus at the end of Season 1. She is cured by Mohinder.
  • Subverted in the Pushing Daisies episode "Corpsicle": The littlest cancer patient (well, littlest heart condition patient) is a complete Jerk Ass who takes out his bitterness about his condition on everyone else. When the Wish-A-Wish Foundation lady comes by, his wish is "for those insurance company jerks who rejected my transplant application to keel over and die."
    • The Wish-a-Wish lady grants his wish.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Dead Man Walking," Owen has a Pet the Dog moment with the Littlest Leukemia Patient, who explicitly states that he's gonna die anyway and doesn't want the second shot of chemo the mean old doctors are giving him. Owen then goes on to save the kid, denying him the chance to die with his eyebrows intact by wrestling with Death himself. Way to go, Owen.
  • Cruelly twisted in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Sick", their Ripped from the Headlines take on the second round of child molestation allegations against Michael Jackson. After the detectives begin investigating the Jacko-surrogate (who has bribed a family of a victim, a now-dangerously disturbed boy, to shut up), one of these comes forward saying she was also molested at a charity gathering. It turns out that first, she was not molested, but forced to say this by her grandmother/guardian so they could get a similar settlement so the girl could live. Second is even worse: she doesn't have cancer; her grandmother is secretly poisoning her to profit off her ill state. What's really sad is that this is Truth in Television, and known as Munchausen by Proxy — making someone in one's care intentionally sick to garner respect, sympathy, and money; while this is intended as the grandmother's defense, she is told that no one will be "that stupid" as to believe it — she's just greedy.
    • A related story from Criminal Intent, "Faith", has similar motivations: The Littlest Cancer Patient whose blogs, phone interviews and autobiography brought the nation to tears turned out to be a complete hoax: her Genre Savvy "guardian" wrote the book and blog herself, faked the phone calls, and even accepted donations of home medical equipment to stockpile for future sale on eBay. The truth only came out when a would-be benefactor insisted on meeting the girl in person.
  • Horatio is forced to divulge the existence of his brother's illegitimate daughter (and her mother) to the widow when the daughter requires a bone marrow transplant and neither himself nor the mother is a match.
  • The Young Riders had a particularly heinous example of this in the otherwise decent episode "The Littlest Cowboy" (yes, that's the real title). To make it worse, the child actor used was extremely untalented.
  • The Commish arranged for a young boy dying of cancer, who had wanted to be a police officer, to ride along in a squad car, and he even helps make an arrest (though we see the 'criminal' is actually a police officer in disguise).
  • Oz. An unseen version of this trope serves to humanise lifer Rebadow, who tries raising money to first send his dying grandson to Disneyland, later to get him treatment. He finally gets the money by winning the lottery, only to have his partner (a prison guard) refuse to give Rebadow his half. The guard later feels guilty and changes his mind, but by then it's too late.
  • SCTV had a parody of "The Babe Ruth Story", where the Babe (John Candy) promises to hit a home run for a sick kid. The kid starts making more and more requests, like an inside-the-park home run, and an autographed ball from every player in the league, and when Babe even suggests it may not be possible the kid starts whimpering and hyperventilating. When the kid gets Babe eating fifty hot dogs while spinning around on one foot, the Babe finally snaps.
    • Likewise, Saturday Night Live did a similar sketch starring John Belushi. In the SNL version the little boy goes into cardiac arrest after a fat, drunk and over the hill Babe strikes out.
  • Power Rangers RPM has an entire orphanage full of them in Corinth, the Last City on Earth. One of the Rangers stole five million dollars worth of medical supplies to help them.
  • Used with a twist in Strong Medicine. A little girl needs a marrow transplant and the mother isn't compatible, so Lu Delgado tries to convince the (as always) Jerk Ass father to donate (he had left them because he believed the girl wasn't his daughter and the wife had cheated on him, despite knowing the LCP was sick). After bullying guilt-tripping convincing the dad into trying anyway, Lu finds out that he's really not compatible either. And after snooping around some more, it turns out the kid had been a victim of a Twin Switch after her birth, hence why the "parents" weren't able to donate: she wasn't their daughter to start with.
  • Knight Rider pulls this with Becky, a child who even KITT will surrender his dignity for, and who requires a bone marrow transplant. Of course, the only match is a street kid fighting a turf war on the other side of the country...
  • A parody in the Chappelle's Show sketch "Make a Wish," where the little kid's dying wish is to meet Dave Chappelle, who arrives and proceeds to beat the pants off the kid at Street Hoops, all while enthusiastically taunting him?
    Dave: Haha, GAME! In your face! In your FACE! Feel better.
    Billy (just before flatlining): Half Baked sucked anyway.
  • Abused frequently on Grey's Anatomy, especially since the addition of Arizona's pediatric surgeon character, most egregiously in the episode "Sweet Surrender": the little girl actually has Tay-Sachs, and has made it to six years old (which is rare), and her desperate father spends most of the day running around searching for miracle cures in Mexico, which results in Bailey basically cuddling the girl all day. Finally, she takes a turn for the worse and Bailey and Arizona gently tell the father to stop and just hold her as she dies, which he does, tearfully promising her that they'll go to Mexico soon and describing its beautiful beaches to her. Oh, and she has giant eyes and an adorable beanie.
  • Averted on Breaking Bad. While Walter Jr has cerebral palsy, it is not his defining characteristic or even mentioned very often. He is portrayed on occasion as bitter about having the condition and has not hesitated about giving out to Walt about his apparent self pity. In a further, crueller subversion, Walt is subtly implied to be resentful of his son for forcing him into a job he hates.
  • Averted on The Inbetweeners as a student now popular for having beaten his illness is an erratic, violent attention-seeker who is hated by the protagonists.
  • The Episode "Comeback" in Glee has Will and Sue sing to an entire ward of these in order to give Sue a Pet the Dog moment before going back to her usual Jerkass self.
  • In the episode Peter from Fringe we see Peter as one, made worse by the fact that he actually dies a quarter of the way through the episode and the rest showing how far one man would go to save him.
  • Criminal Minds uses one in "The Bittersweet Science", which kind of provides a continually running string of Pet the Dog moments for the Unsub (intercut, of course, with him brutally killing people).
  • Garth Marenghi's Darkplace regularly parodies this trope by having Dr Rick Dagless pay a visit to "a very special friend of mine" mid-episode - a sick child who exists solely to tell Dagless how wonderful he is and provide a little angst.
  • Monday Mornings:
    • In the pilot, there was this extremely cute boy with big brown eyes, who was a Cheerful Child and a future soccer star. He was brought to Chelsie General by his mum just as a precaution because he collapsed during a match. Unfortunately, he has a tumour in his brain. He dies on Dr. Ty Wilson's table, and it is a major screw-up for him. It causes him a haunting Heroic BSOD experience.
    • One thirteen-year-old girl is a talented pianist and determined not to get a treatment because she wants to live her life to the fullest and not to deal with the pain of brain surgery and chemotherapy. Her parents want to do what she wishes, but the doctors disagree. They are able to persuade her that she should not consider only mathematical statistics and chances of survival, but medical miracles as well. It's actually quite touching.
    • Exaggerated with Chloe, who is a two-month-old baby and has a tumour growing in vital part of her brain. She has seizures nearly constantly but her parents thought she was just an extremely happy baby. It didn't occur to them that a constant laughter in a baby is not normal.
  • Subverted in the Supernatural episode "Appointment in Samarra". When Death challenges Dean to act as a Reaper for one day in exchange for freeing Sam's soul from Lucifer's cage, he initially refuses to kill the Littlest Cancer Patient, resulting in her miraculous recovery. Due to this, however, a nurse who was attending her goes home early and is killed in a car crash she would not have otherwise been in. Another Reaper, Tessa, explains that this is because the girl's survival goes against the natural order, and is changing people's destinies as a result. Dean is eventually forced to throw the bet in order to save the nurse's husband from a similar death. Even though he's lost, he decides to go back and reap the little girl to set the natural order straight. Luckily for him, this was a Secret Test of Character and Death decides to restore Sam's soul anyway.

    Music 
  • The Music Video for We Are Scientists' song "It's a Hit" features a particularly gut-wrenching subversion of the "win the game for me" trope: lead singer Keith Murray as a 1920s boxer is approached by his "biggest fan", a young boy with a terminal disease, and promises to win the match for him. Unfortunately, Keith is then paired up with a heavyweight who punches him so hard that he is killed in the ring - and the bloodsplatter hits the Littlest Cancer Patient, who has a ringside seat.
  • The Music Video for Katy Perry's song "Firework" features an LCP who can see the fireworks exploding from KP's magical breasts. Later in the video. Later he sees fireworks coming out of a woman giving birth. Later, when he steps outside the hospital. He is not featured in the jubilant spiral dance at the end.
  • The title character of Conor Oberst's song "Danny Callahan" (on his self-titled album) is a Littlest Cancer Patient. Subverted: "Even Western medicine/It couldn't save Danny Callahan/Bad bone marrow, a bald little boy." Ouch.
  • "Carry You Home" by James Blunt, although Word of God states that it's about a war-buddy of Blunt's.
  • A popular theme in Christian pop and country music; Sherrie Austin's "Streets of Heaven," for instance, with the Glurge-tastic lyrics:
    She's much too young to be on her own:
    Barely just turned seven.
    So who will hold her hand when she crosses the streets of Heaven?
  • The Our Lady Peace song "Thief" is about a real-life young girl who died of a brain tumor. The music video states: "Each year, terminal illness steals the lives of thousands of children. Mina Kim was one."
  • Vanessa Carlton's song "Annie" is inspired by an encounter with a little girl who had cancer, and yet she was still a very positive and strong-willed individual.
  • The music video for Modest Mouse's Little Motel features one of these.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In a rare adult version (and not televised in the hospital), professional wrestler Zach Gowan lost one of his legs as a kid (and met Hulk Hogan in the process), but gained a contract in both the WWE and TNA on separate occasions. He does an impressive moonsault, which he used on—of all wrestlers—Big Show to earn his WWE contract storyline-wise. Never really took off in the burying, a combination of Vince McMahon and the booking crew forcing him into a Jobber role, and Gowan apparently being a jerkass with a severe entitlement complex behind the scenes. Still... one-legged moonsaults!

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Breath of Fire III has an enemy tournament participant claim falsely that his daughter is ill and needs the prize money for an operation. The heroes try to beat him anyway. After the Time Skip, you learn his daughter's still embarrassed about it.
  • Trauma Center Second Opinion has Tyler's younger sister who is afflicted by a rare disease caused by the GUILT, as parodied by the Awesome Series.
    Tyler: Doctor, my sister has cancer. (Derek stares angrily) ZOMBIE CANCER!
    Derek: Hahaha, yeah! (high five)
  • Mega Man Battle Network 3 had Mamoru, the Littlest Heart Disease Patient as part of an arc. In a bit of a subversion, it's implied that he is actually in control of the Bonus Boss, Serenade.EXE - the only other character that can match Bass.EXE, Protoman.EXE, and MegaMan.exe.
    • And owns the very shady Undernet, to boot.
    • Hub/Saito "Mega Man" Hikari, anyone?
  • Hikaru in Lifesigns Surgical Unit - at least in the first game. By the second she's perfectly fine thanks to a bone marrow transplant from the main character in the first.
  • Polka in Eternal Sonata. She's a fourteen year-old girl dying of a terminal illness. Only she's not. She's actually fated to sacrifice herself to save the world.
    • Though the game is never entirely clear on this. It seems to suggest that she actually does exhibit signs of illness at times, and in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release, she collapses at one point and has to be brought back from a coma by having the Agogo Queen Mother absorb some of her astra, which glows more brightly than anyone else's in the world.
  • Parodied in Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space, where Timmy Two-Teeth is dying of terminal Tourette's.
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta viciously deconstructs this with the story of Iva Demilcol, who, despite his illness (and not even being ten years old!), is fully expected to perform as a soldier of the Empire. He doesn't get better, either.
  • Dead Rising 2 has the protagonist's daughter Katie, whose need for a zombie infection suppressant is Chuck's main motivation. She's an example of this done right, sympathetic enough to inspire Video Game Caring Potential, but avoids being over-the-top or a pain to look after. It helps that she hates being one of them, continually apologizing to Chuck for what he has to do for her. Self-awareness counts for a lot.
  • Ōkamiden had Ayame.

    Web Original 
  • Presented unsympathetically in this bit from The Onion about a child who bankrupts the Make-A-Wish foundation with a wish for unlimited wishes.
  • Homestar Runner's Strong Bad "...can pretty much make anybody cry just by showing them this drawing I invented of a one-legged puppy named 'Li'l Brudder.'"

    Web Comics 
  • MegaTokyo - Miho may be deliberately invoking this trope for her own amusement or as part of a 'game.' She's certainly actually sick, but with what and how bad is in question.
  • Spoofed in a two-page guest comic of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, when a cancer-afflicted child uses the Make-A-Wish Foundation to wish to become a villain who could beat the titular doctor.
  • Perhaps not used for a sympathy ploy, but Chemo Kid of the Emo Kid and Chemo Kid duo is a cancer-patient/superhero in Head Trip. He's bald and wears a hospital gown, but he seems pretty limber when he's fighting crime.
  • In Faans, one of them stands up to Keith. Keith lights him on fire with an offhand backhand while yawning. This pretty much says all you need to know about Keith. One of the few cases where the limited Contractual Immortality does not apply.
  • Cub in Fite! (the disease isn't specified, but the idea is the same).
  • In Drowtales, Naal'suul has a slowly progressing case of Demonic Possession. And now she's full-on possessed.
  • In User Friendly, Sid is in for chemo for a mild cancer, and he befriends a Littlest Cancer Patient. When he comes in to exclaim that he's in full remission, he finds the bed empty... and goes deathly silent.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Sealab 2021 episode "Little Orphan Angry", a young con artist kept on pretending to be ill, faking his death, and changing his identity and disease to constantly get free stuff from the Make a Wish Foundation. He eventually gets his comeuppance by being eaten by a shark.
  • South Park:
    • The "win the game" variation was very cruelly subverted in the episode "Stanley's Cup", where the kid with leukemia was depending on his little league hockey team to win for him. The team, composed of kindergarteners who don't know how to play hockey, tie their first game 0-0, subsequently, the doctor says the boy's health has neither improved nor degraded, rather it is "tied". They were supposed to play at halftime during a professional game, but when their peewee opponents don't show, the professional team lets the kids sub in so they could win for their cancer-ridden friend. Instead, the kindergarteners are very savagely (and literally) beaten by their professional opponents. When news of his team's defeat reaches the boy, he gives up all hope and dies right there. The episode ends with the camera focused on the dead little boy, with just the sound of his flat-lined monitor in the background.
    • Occurs when they finally decided to kill Kenny forever. "He said his wish is not to die." Instead, he got Madonna... whom he railed against (translated by Stan) as being "irrelevant" - all with her outside the door, and apparently not having heard.
  • The Simpsons parodies this with Patches and Poor Violet, two pale, perpetually-dying orphans. They have been swindled of their "vitamin money" by Bart, chased away from Old Jewish Man's storefront with him exhorting them to "Come back when you get some parents!", been kicked them out of the hospital to make room for a plastic surgery wing and been violently knocked away from a leaky gas line by Homer and Ned. Quoth Poor Violet after the last one: "I taste bwood."
    • The pair's first appearance illustrates their place in the world when Lisa introduces them to (an already guilt-wracked) Bart:
    Lisa: Bart, this is Patches and this is Poor Violet.
    Bart: Ughh..I don't like where this is going.
    • In "Homer Loves Flanders", Mr. Burns is telling the football team that there's a little crippled boy in the hospital who wants them to win; he goes on to say that he knows this because he crippled the kid himself to inspire them. Cue a cutaway to the hospital with a bedridden and cast wearing Milhouse:
    Milhouse: I hope they win... or Mr. Burns said he's coming back.
  • Family Guy parodies this and the Make-A-Wish Foundation when they had a kid ask the smiling spokeswoman "Can you cure my cancer?" to which she cheerfully replied "No!"
    • In another episode, the "Grant A Dream" Foundation has a dying leukemia patient whose wish was to play quarterback for the New England Patriots. Cue the opposing football players all piling on top of him, even as the announcer quips that "little Johnny should have wished for some blocking."
      • This episode's A-plot is about Peter scamming the system in order to revive a cancelled TV show he likes; when the Foundation comes back expecting a dead kid for publicity, Peter claims he healed Chris and the B-plot comes into play.
  • Such a character appears in an episode of Metalocalypse. In keeping with the Contractual Immortality, she dies naturally rather than by any of the contrived accidents that usually fell those associated with Dethklok, but unusually for this trope, the death happens on screen.
    • The whole episode "Deth Kids" is essentially a subversion of this trope. The LCP appears in a television ad stating that she wants most to meet Toki Wartooth; Toki, in protest of his child-friendly image, refuses and goes on a psychotic (demonic?) rampage around Mordhaus. When Charles Foster Ofdenson presents him a DVD of the LCP singing a song about how brutal and metal life is, he changes his mind and rushes to meet her at the last second, only to find that it was a last second too much. The episode ends as he sees her body decay and become maggot-infested and hears her voice saying that he killed her.
  • Superjail! had an episode about girl with cancer whom Jailbot accidentally brought into the jail. One of the inmates reads the tag that says she has it and thinks "Cancer" (pronouncing it "Sanser") is her name. The Contractual Immortality is played partially straight. She dies (sort of) on-screen, but it was apparently from a combination of the cancer and getting crushed under bunch of boxes (still much less violent than the norm). Also worth noting is that we see her coughing up a bunch of blood and are shown most of her organs screaming in pain while her kidneys fail.
    • Though she does return in brief scenes in Season Two as a ghost, often seen with the inmate that took care of her.
  • An episode of Spiderman The Animated Series was based on the comic book story mentioned above.
  • Dot played this type of character in the Animaniacs movie Wakko's Wish. And she was such a cute little terminally ill kid! Unsurprisingly subverted, given the source material. It turns out she was just acting the entire time, and the "surgery" she was trying to get the entire film was having a beauty mark added.
  • In the E.T. episode of Code Monkeys, one of the first buyers of the notorious video game is a child cancer patient who, upon experiencing its awfulness, proclaims "This game is giving me even more cancer!" and dies.
  • Archer subverts this with Ruth, who is an old woman with terminal breast cancer who befriends Sterling Archer. Archer's heart strings are pulled when the chemo drugs the two were given were fake, and she dies. Archer shoots the bad guy who switched the drugs quoting one of her lines. Ruth is a bit of an odd subversion, as she's sweet to Archer, but mouthy to nurses and encourages his crude behavior.
    • Referenced in the episode's Cold Open, when Dr. Krieger tells Archer his chemo drugs are fake.
    Archer: I've been treating my cancer with sugar pills?!?
    Krieger: You didn't think it was weird your chemo drugs were chewable?
    Archer: Little kids get cancer.
    Krieger: Aw, that's right, they do.
  • American Dad!: In "Tears Of A Clooney", Hayley apparently battles a form of cancer while Stan and Francine are away. She's seen on the line with the Make-A-Wish foundation, talking to George Clooney, who is driving next to Stan. Stan asks who it was, and Clooney replies "some sick chick", lampshading how shallow and pointless many people think the Make-A-Wish Foundation really is. Don't worry, Hayley gets better.
  • The Peanuts special "Why, Charlie Brown, Why?" Full stop.
  • Played with in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy in which a slug playing Baseball, It Makes Sense in Context, and a child asks if he'll hit a homerun for him, to which the slug responds "That depends, are you sick and/or dying?"

    Miscellaneous 
  • This "Pea Soup for the Cynic's Soul" story about a girl whose town rallies behind her to help her fly out in the middle of a flood to get a kidney transplant initially reads like one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, but then, like the other Pea Soup stories, has a twist that results in a Downer Ending (in which not only does the girl die when the building they're in collapses, but so do many of those who helped with her rescue).


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alternative title(s): The Littlest Cancer Patient
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