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Humor Your Tumor

This column will hereafter be a permanent feature of this web site, although its content will change monthly. It is dedicated to all individuals (and their loved ones) who are now battling cancer, and to Survivors whose cancer is in remission. I’ll occasionally leave you with a joke. This will usually be related to cancer, or some other source of stress in our lives. If you’ve heard a joke along these lines that you love, and would like to see it made available to everyone in this column, please send it to me at HaHaRemedy@viconet.com.


Humor Your Tumor
(March, 1999)

By Paul McGhee, PhD.

It's Always Something!

"Live each day as if it were the last day of your life; some day you will be right." (Anonymous)

The first Sunday of every June is National Cancer Survivors Day. I‘m invited every year to do two or three programs somewhere in the country as a celebration of life for those who are living with cancer, as well as their family members. At a program in Utah several years ago, I came across a woman who had had a double mastectomy because of breast cancer. Several weeks after her surgery, she went out to her front porch early one morning to get her newspaper. As she bent over to pick it up, one of her breasts popped out. The family dog, thinking this was just a new toy, grabbed it and started running around the yard with it. She ran after it, shouting "You come back here with my breast! You bring my breast back!"

When she realized what she was saying, she stopped and looked around to see if anyone had heard her. To her great relief, no one else was up that early. But when she started thinking about what the neighbors would have thought had they heard her, she started laughing, and couldn't stop. She was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of her eyes.
When she finally stopped laughing, she realized that that was what had been missing from her life. She could not remember laughing since her diagnosis of cancer. And she was determined to never let another day go by without having some laughter in her life. She realized that she needed to laugh, even when she didn't feel like laughing. The laughter itself boosted her spirits and made it easier to face the tough days.

I now tell this story to all the cancer groups I speak to, because I think her experience applies to everyone learning to live with cancer--or any other serious illness. You need to be sure that you have some joy in your life every day, and humor and laughter provide you with a powerful means of creating joy. If you can't find anything to laugh at, laugh on credit! The resulting impact on your mood will help you find things that are honestly funny to you.
My programs always focus on the power of humor to help you cope with the tough days, and after virtually every program several people come up and say something like, "You know, it‘s true. If it weren‘t for my sense of humor, my family and I would never have gotten through this"

Most cancer patients say they know that it's important to keep a positive attitude, and to try to keep some humor and laughter in their life. But they simply can't generate a mood or frame of mind that allows them to find anything to laugh at. Their sense of humor abandons them right when they need it the most! That's why several future columns will be devoted to how to develop your humor skills--so that you can use your sense of humor to cope with the tough days.

The fact that people like Gilda Radner, of Saturday Night Live fame, die from cancer shows that while your sense of humor strengthens your immune system (research on the immunoenhancement effects of humor will be discussed next month), it's not a magic bullet guaranteed to cure your cancer. What it does do is strengthen some of the body's basic health and healing mechanisms. Humor and laughter help assure that your mind and emotions are working in favor of good health, and not interfering with it.

While humor and laughter did not save Gilda's life, she made it very clear that they helped her cope with the disease and improved the quality of her life as she fought the battle. She knew she was winning the battle to cope with her illness, even as her body was losing it's battle. In her book, It's Always Something, she says, "The important thing is that the days you've had, you will have lived. What I can control is whether I'm going to live a day in depression and panic, or whether I'm going to attack the day and make it as wonderful a day as I can." Gilda knew that when you're living with cancer, there'll always be something to deal with every day. But she also knew that her sense of humor was her strongest ally in living her days fully. It can also be yours.

[Note: Check this site every month for new information on how humor improves the quality of your life and helps you cope with cancer.] HaHaRemedy@viconet.com.

Click here to link to Dr. McGhee's web site at www.LaughterRemedy.com.



Click HERE for additional articles by Dr. McGhee on Humor and health/coping.