April 26, 2007
Are you able to poke fun at cancer, as many survivors are able to do even though they are also fighting the disease?
Recently I received an e-mail from a cancer survivor who shared an approach to life I admire. It shows how one can move right through a difficult situation with a bit of humor. Christina, who gave me permission to use her story, wrote:
I thought that others may enjoy my real life experience. Let me start off by saying, I am 27 and have recently survived Breast cancer!
After my first treatment of chemo, all of my hair fell out and it took me months to leave home without wearing a wig. The very first night that I mustered enough confidence to go out with only a ball cap I went into a convenience store and right away noticed the people staring at me. A few people smiled and kept walking but the man behind the counter had something to say.
“Ma’am, are you ok?” he asked, almost wishing he had never said a word.
I smiled and after making my purchase, I lifted my ball cap and said “I lost a bet.”
[The picture comes from the Max Cap Company in England. Also, you’ll find neat hats at Stylish Noggins, whose hats, caps and snoods are not open at the back.]
Christina’s story is a good example of humor in the face of illness. I realize, of course, that joking about cancer is not to everyone’s taste, but I was introduced to laughing at illness through my work with The Wellness Community—Foothills, a cancer support program, in Pasadena, California. That’s where I became acquainted with Sydney Love, a cancer survivor, who has been a past contributor to the Support4Change website.
As I have written in the past, many cancer patients discover humor is a way to let a bit of light into the dark corners of their world. Betty Cea, a lymphoma patient, is one of them. When she emailed me her “Top 10 Reasons I Can’t Be Sick Anymore,” she said:
My hair left, my dysfunctional family whom I love very much stayed, and the cancer has come back. I might as well laugh while I fight … cancer hates a sense of humor …
As with all humor, the pleasure is in the punchline, the unexpected ending or twist to a story. And all such stories are, for me, all the better when they come from quick thinking. Too often my “clever” retorts are obvious when I’m on the way home from a conversation that got overheated, long after we needed something to calm the tension.
When have you been able to defuse a tense situation, or insert a little humor into a depressing situation, by thinking quickly and humorously?