Laughter Therapy: Bringing Humor into the Cancer Treatment Room

Linda and Chris

We’ve all heard it – “laughter is the best medicine!” It works for me. Most of the time. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been, and I’m blessed… I think! I’m sure it’s difficult for some though. It’s hard to laugh when you’re sick. But how on earth can you find anything, and I mean anything, remotely funny about cancer and all that goes with it? There just isn’t! I had to dig deep and it wasn’t easy. But oh how it helped!

Digging Deep to Find Humor in Cancer

After my cancer diagnosis, I took the requisite three days to absorb the shock. I cried. It didn’t get me anywhere. I sulked. That didn’t help either. I desperately needed to find joy in something… anything! In those early days, it wasn’t easy. Tears came more readily than smiles. When my hair started falling out from chemo and my mother shaved my head, I couldn’t help but notice a resemblance to Mr. Clean. I smiled! For those few moments, I felt just a little better. I still had it! I had found my sense of humor again, and by golly, I would use it. Regardless of my outcome, it would see me through it.

Humor runs in my family, but they took their cue from me. Fear! When my attitude changed, I noticed a big difference in those around me. When I lightened up, they did as well. It’s hard to watch someone you love in that kind of turmoil. It was even harder for me on the receiving end. When I tackled it with humor, their relief was almost audible. I’m sure they were still scared for me (as I certainly was), but at that point they knew I could do this, and I did!

My friends knew me well. While they gave me space in the beginning, they soon rallied around with things they knew would cheer me up. A group of co-workers showed up at my door one day with a huge bunch of balloons. Each person had decorated a balloon like a bald head complete with jewelry. I laughed. Before a trip to a water park one weekend, I asked friends how I might keep my wig on while on the water slides. Maybe duct tape. I laughed. When the online support group I was involved in suggested sticking my head in the refrigerator to combat my hot flashes, I laughed.

Sharing My Cancer Humor with Others

I looked for the craziest t-shirts and wore them proudly to my chemo appointments. People were giving me the thumbs up wherever I went. My friend Chris and I handed out silly buttons in the treatment room. There was very little laughter in those rooms. We changed that! We saw eyes light up and smiles, lots of them. For even those few minutes they felt better. We felt better. My doctors smiled too! I’m sure it made their day a little easier as well. I like to think the attitude I chose to have was just a little contagious, and perhaps changed someone else’s outlook as well. Many years ago a woman approached me in the hospital and asked me where I got my Chemo Brain T-shirt. She just had to have one! We are very good friends to this day and I love her dearly. She makes me laugh!

Laughter Therapy Got Me Through

I surrounded myself with positive people and avoided those with doom and gloom. I wasn’t stupid. I knew my cancer and I knew what could happen. If I was going to fight this with every available weapon, I had to stay strong and use my arsenal. One of which was levity. It’s maybe not for everyone, but it helped me tremendously. It did then, and still does today. It’s definitely who I am.

As I get ready to celebrate my 20 year cancerversary next week, I reflect on the changes those years have brought. The biggest of course is my body. That’ll never be the same! I’ve had to say a fond farewell to one breast and part of another. Hope to see you again someday! I had to let go of my hair for a short while and occasionally my stomach contents. Don’t miss those days! But the things I’ve gained are immeasurable. So many friends! Wonderful women that I’ve grown to love like the sisters I’ve never had. Some I’ve lost over the years and that hurt. While I’ve never cried as much over the last 20 years, I’ve never, ever laughed as much either. I smile as I write this!

The lesson I’ve learned from my cancer diagnosis has carried me through the years. There will always be tears, but the joy of laughter will raise you up, give you strength, and propel you forward. It certainly did for me! Laughter truly is the best medicine! Really!

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