Can I laugh with Cancer?
Cancer is not funny. It’s depressing and hard for anyone despite the stage, the type, the treatment it comes with a dose of sadness, pain, etc. So, how can one even begin to write a blog about laughing with cancer.
It’s pretty easy, actually.
Amidst all the sadness, the pain, the treatments, the questions, and the how are yous, those with cancer must be able to laugh. Learning to laugh to a point you forget the pain, the treatments, and the statistics of the type, stage, and prognosis of your cancer.\
Now, some people might think this is crazy. Fair enough. I thought I was a little odd in the process myself, but that didn’t stop me. First of all, the cancer was in my body, so it was my journey and my decision as to how to handle it. I have been and always will be the first to say that however anyone approaches their personal journey through what they’re going through is up to them. None of us have a right to judge it because it is not our body, journey or experience. It’s that plain and simple. Second, laughing was part of my daily routine so why would I approach cancer any different? I refused to let cancer change who I was so why would I let change my approach to my life?
How does one even approach laughing through cancer? It’s an excellent question and until I started the practice I had no idea myself. As I walk my path I kind of just went for it. Here’s what I do:
1. I laughed at the little things. First question that has got to be asked is, are there even little things when going through cancer? Quick answer – YES!! Of course there are. Your life doesn’t to stop just because you are faced with cancer. I’m not trying to make light of the situation, believe me I am not, but if you don’t allow yourself to laugh a bit, the emotions of dealing with cancer can break you.
2. I had some fun with the treatments. OK, open your mind here and hear me out. Here’s how I took this approach. The worst thing about hearing the diagnosis for me was shit, now what? I knew I was not going to do chemo or radiation–selfishly I watched it kill two grandparents. Plus, I love my hair and I would put my hair guy out of business. The other thing was how was I going to tell everyone? Should I host a party, tell them via text, a sit down, phone call, social media? When I sit in the “cancer chair” I joke with the nurses and the people around me. I tell them–for the next week my pee will be like a rainbow. My stomach will make two choices…One block up the “sh*t” or have it coming out of me like Lava. I immediately talk about Bridesmaids and the fact the movie almost gave me an asthma attack. I joke. I try to make others forget the pain and make them laugh–at least I can try to help them feel a bit better.
3. I made others laugh with and even at me. I know this sounds mean, but really it wasn’t. I saw it as loosening the mood, getting rid of the elephant in the room, if you will. If I showed my friends and family a smile on my face and a few loud chuckles, then I could see that they felt a little sigh of relief and felt they could do the same. It made it so much easier for all of us. I made even the little stories into funny stories and I could tell it made everyone less tense about the cancer. The cancer wasn’t funny at all but the stories that seemed to happen around the cancer journey always were. I did everything from accidentally put my phone in the the dog food storage container (don’t ask me why…I just say chemo made me do it) to leaving corn on the cob in a turned-off oven for days because I completely forgot about it. That’s just silly and you can’t make this stuff up. If I didn’t laugh, I was bound to cry. Choice A seemed the best mental treatment for me.
Laughter is a natural healing element. It’s good to laugh and to forget for just a moment of what crosses you are bearing on your cancer journey. For example, last night I was at the Vet with one of my corgi’s and as I was sitting in the lobby, I would hear the vet techs saying all these medications, and I was like I am on that, and that, and that… I started to laugh because even pets deal with similar ailments that we humans do and they take the same medication. I was laughing because I wondered if animal drugs (the same as humans) were cheaper than what I pay… I laughed.
For a moment, I forgot about my own illness and looked at these pets as they met their owner and despite what they were feeling–we without doubt happy to see their human. The tail still wagged even though the eyes were heavy from the medication–the owner’s faces were brightened by seeing their family member reunited. I laughed because the cone of shame. I could only imagine if we, as humans were forced to wear them. Could you imagine? I then remember the show in the 80’s or 90’s that was cone-heads or something.
I laughed. I smiled.
One of my co-workers who is currently walking the path with her husband who is also fighting the good fight against cancer told me that I need to watch the show Schitt’s Creek. One afternoon after treatment I was feeling tired and just down and so I remembered that she told me to watch this show. I turned on Netflix and began watching it–I laughed so hard, I couldn’t remember when I laughed like that. It was something that made me instantly feel better.
Now, that same co-worker has the voice of the mom on the show down to a tee. She says things in that voice that just make me roll in laughter. It helps.
Laughter is fine.
Many people often lose the ability to find a reason to laugh when battling cancer. I have read countless stories of those who find themselves in depression, immense sadness, and at a loss for who they are–because cancer has overtaken them. After reading these stories, I realized that many of them talk about how they don’t laugh anymore–they find nothing to laugh about. It made me think. I thought just because we have cancer–it does not mean that it should take away who we are and what makes us what people remember.
So, I decided that cancer does not define us and it can not win over us–by taking away our joys, our happiness, and our laughter. We must find things to laugh about–even if it is at ourselves. Chemo brain–yes, it is a real thing–can often make us forget things, act differently, and so I started laughing at things–like telling someone to put the dishes in the washer, instead of the dishwasher, having to redo something three times because you correct one thing and then find another, and another. I just have to laugh at myself and refocus and return to the task.
Remember laughter is good–if you or someone you know is struggling with cancer–help them laugh. Help them smile. Perhaps it is a funny story, movie, show, or whatever else makes you laugh–find it and share it. Laughter makes a difference. Laughter is like a five star vacation on the most beautiful island that is filled with warm, sandy beaches, and deep blue waters. It is a takeaway from the pain, sadness, uncertainty of life. and it can even make one feel incredibly better–even just for a moment.
It is okay to laugh.
Anyone who tells a cancer patient they don’t look sick or like someone who has cancer needs to understand that our internal fight continues. Our outside is only the shield we wear. Cancer patients aren’t meant to always look sick–but they can laugh, smile, and live. It is okay to be happy when you are around someone battling cancer–spread the happiness, the smiles, and the laughter–it can change the world for them–if even for just a moment. It can have an lasting impact.
Laughter can make a difference that may not be visibly known or felt at the time, but the patient can feel something that may have been lost for weeks, month, and even years. Share laughter. Share smiles.
I recently hung a new picture in my office that serves as a daily reminder that “Kindness changes Everything!” How true this message is. How easy it is to be kind to someone we may or may not know because we never know the battle they are fighting. I asked a few friends the other day–Do I look like I have cancer? They said no. My point was made. We never know what the person sitting in the car next to us on the way to work is going through or the person in front of us in line at the grocery store may be dealing with. So, if you can spread kindness or laughter to someone–do so.
Laughter can come in many forms and perhaps if you are a friend or family member of someone you know and love who are battling cancer no matter the stage, no matter the type, an the treatment it is okay to bring out laughter. Tell funny stories, share a funny meme on social media, go to a movie with them. Just stop for a moment and remember that laughter can cure what medicine can not.
I’ll say it one more time. Cancer is not funny. It’s not even close. But the approach can make or break you if you have a cancer diagnosis. You can take the cards that are dealt and make the best of them or you don’t accept the situation and quite frankly, make it more unbearable than it has to be. As I state above, you are not laughing at the cancer. You are finding ways to cope and laughing at the little things, making light of the stuff you never knew even existed is OK. If you do, cancer simply cannot compete with your emotions.
It is okay to laugh with cancer.