Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sometimes, you just have to laugh at cancer

When I was little, my parents subscribed to Reader's Digest. I think I started reading it before I was 10. That was either an early sign of nerdiness to come or a perfectly normal response to the desperation of only getting semi-clear reception from one television station. Perhaps it was a mix of both. My favorite part of the magazine was Laughter, the Best Medicine. I remember not understanding all of the jokes, but I loved reading the ones I did.

As it turns out, laughter really is good medicine. You see, cancer can make you mad, lonely and confused. It can make you sad, apathetic, and frustrated. It can make you cry - even if you're not much on crying. So, sometimes, you just have to laugh at cancer. Laughter may not kill the cancer cells, but it makes living with their presence a whole lot easier.

Here are some things that are making me laugh these days ...

1) You can't take some people anywhere. I'm not one to name names - Doug and Terrah. Oops! Recently, we were at my consultation with the radiation oncologist. We were sitting in the waiting room when I commented that if my enlarged lymph node was negative, I wouldn't even have to have radiation. At that moment, my sweet little brother blurted out, "I hope they do a little "Zap-Zap" on you anyway!" Of course, I knew he meant radiation would bring more assurance that all the cancer is gone, but had he really just said "Zap-Zap" in a radiation therapy waiting room? After suppressing my laughter, I had to remind him that he was born without an inside voice.

It wouldn't be fair to leave out Terrah, would it? I made the comment that if you looked around the waiting room, it was easy to separate patients from supporters - not due to side effects, but something in the eyes. Then, Terrah, never short on self-deprecating humor and still unsure of her recent haircut (which actually looks really good), declared that those looking our way would whisper, "It's the one with the wig." We had a good laugh.

2. Super-sensitive friends. I was explaining to Brad that if I chose chemotherapy and radiation alone, I would likely have to have a feeding tube placed for the duration of the treatment since I'm so thin. Even with surgery, I'm likely to lose some weight. So, I was telling him how I had been trying to eat everything in sight. That's when he asked, "Should I start taking wagers on how much weight you'll lose?" Another really good laugh. I love my super-sensitive friends.

3. Messin' with Momma. If you know my Mom, you know that she loves to do nice things for people even under normal circumstances. Well, cancer has thrown her into high gear. She's as sweet as they come, but I can't help messing with her. So, when she baked me a fresh blueberry cobbler, I said, "You just made this because I have cancer, right?" Because she does something special almost every day, I get to use that one a lot. She just gives me that "Son, I didn't teach you to act like that" look and we both laugh. It's fun to use on my sister, too. She's a little scarier than Mom, though, so I have to make sure there's a safe distance between us. The look she gives usually says, "Cancer will be the least of your worries when I'm finished with you!" And, we laugh.

4. My Entourage. David joined the usual suspects, Terrah and Doug, at yesterday's consultation. That poor little oncologist hoped she was in the wrong place when she walked in the room to find the Three Stooges of Academia lined up against the wall. They have like 16 degrees between them. I must say, cancer is a lot less scary when you are accompanied by Nashville's favorite internist, Vanderbilt's latest PhD, and your own personal big country sasquatch bodyguard brother (who has the brains to match his brawn). I told the doctor that I'd always wanted an entourage, but I didn't think I'd have to have cancer to get one! Another good laugh. I wonder what they'd charge to keep following me around after the cancer's gone?

Many other things are making me laugh. I'm sure I'll share more of them later. Laughter can be an unconcsious defense mechanism, but it can also be a conscious choice in the face of challenges which seem to leave no room for humor. I think there's always room - even if it's just a little crack.

Indeed, there will be days when laughter is less and pain and crying are more, but today is a day for laughter. Go find something to laugh about.

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." -Luke 6:21

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