I Was That Patient Laughing Out Loud During Chemo
It might seem weird or unusual to open a blog post about cancer with a quote about laughing, but laughter was one of the best ways my husband and I found to get through cancer, so that is what I will do:
“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”—Jimmy Buffett
Cancer is serious business and, trust me, there were plenty of times when the reality of my cancer diagnosis was front and center in our minds. For the most part, though, we chose laughter as our coping mechanism. Sometimes, our humor and jokes caught people off guard—they didn’t know if it was okay for them to laugh at cancer, to laugh at my cancer. I never once thought a hearty belly laugh was all I needed to rid my body of cancer, but I believed that how I went about my treatment mentally could promote or hinder healing. I believe that the mind can contribute to healing.
During chemo treatments I would watch silly television shows or movies on my iPad. Sometimes I was that patient laughing out loud at chemo. If I didn’t find something silly to take my mind of chemo, I knew I would have spent the four or five hours in the chair wallowing and feeling sorry for myself.
Our friends knew how to contribute to our laugh therapy. When I was in the hospital for weeks, a friend sent a care package of games—one of those big game boards with 10 games in one, and packages of various children’s card games including Go Fish and Old Maid.
During one particularly monotonous day in the hospital, my husband and I cracked open the Old Maid card game. I’m almost embarrassed to admit we played Old Maid, with just two people, for quite a long time before we realized it’s not a game for two people. Needless to say, it was pretty easy to know who had the Old Maid card.
We laughed and laughed when we realized what we were doing and we still laugh about that today. Laughing like that took our minds, or at least my mind, off my situation—sitting in a hospital room, hooked up to machines, not understanding what was wrong with me,and not knowing when, or if, I was going to get released from the hospital.
We used humor to get me through scary situations, too. My husband has a knack for singing the wrong lyrics to songs and they tend to make songs quite hilarious. He would use this tactic to calm me down when I had panic attacks or when I was scared and about to cry.
The funniest instance of this was one day in my local oncologist’s office. We’d only been home from the hospital for one month when breathing became a struggle for me. We went to my doctor’s office as soon as the doors opened one morning. This was a new doctor, new clinic, so I was nervous about getting worked in; however, I seriously could not breathe.
I was sitting in a chair in one of the chemo rooms with two other patients. It was a very small space so the three of us were practically on top of each other. I started to cry, which was making it even more difficult to breathe, which was causing me to panic, and I could see it was leading to potentially endless cycle of hysteria.
To calm me down, my husband knelt in front of me and said, “Don’t make me sing.” Before I could even get a word out, one of the patients in the room with us looked at me and said, “Oh, please don’t cry.” Even though I was struggling to breathe, I was able to let out a little chuckle. Once I started feeling better, though, it was a scene that my husband and I still laugh about.
Sometimes we just needed to get our minds off our situation and would watch stupid movies on television or silly television shows; shows and movies that, under other circumstances, we probably never would have watched, but were the kind of comic relief we needed at the time. It can be much too easy to spend time thinking about cancer, about being sick, about the prognosis.
Sometimes, you just need a laugh break—watch silly movies, sing silly songs, play silly card games, anything that reminds you life is too short to take it so seriously!
What is one memorable, laughable moment you had during your cancer treatment? Share in the comments below or sign up here.
Photo courtesy of William Stitt
Elizabeth Fortune was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May 2011. She is here today because a generous stranger donated bone marrow to save her life. Elizabeth is a freelance writer, and runs the Lymphomaniac Society, a nonprofit she and her husband started to provide weekend trips to cancer survivors. She enjoys knitting, reading, and playing with her cat, Mr. Meowington.