This study explored the perceptions of 12 patients attending a day care unit in June/July 1996, with the purpose of finding out what was important to these people about their day care experiences. It used a phenomenological methodology derived from Paterson and Zderad's Humanistic Nursing Theory. The patients described numerous aspects of the day care service that were important to them. All 12 people interviewed considered the service satisfactory, and a number considered it to be more than anyone could or should expect. Day care was found to help them feel comfortable, to feel of value and to feel less isolated. In addition, the participants were found to be living with cancer in two different ways. All 12 knew they had cancer and might be terminally ill. Yet some seemed to "tolerate" their life with cancer, whereas others saw it as requiring "adaptation". The day care service was supporting both these styles of managing life with cancer. The interpretation of the findings suggests that the reason patients expressed such satisfaction with the service offered was because the care was humanistic. It responded to individual opinions, feelings and understandings of health and well-being, by giving people time and responding to their individual concerns. In this way, it was flexible enough to support people in managing their illness using their own preferred style.