Laughing at Cancer

I recently was sent an email from a friend who read an article from Miss Conduct from the Boston Globe. This was the question…

I am a cancer survivor and lost my mother to cancer. A dear friend has recently been judgmental about the fact that I use humor to cope. She disagrees that laughter is the best medicine and has accused me of thinking cancer is funny. I am so hurt that she would judge me. I do know cancer is very serious and affects many people, but the way I deal with it is my business, as it is my journey. Please let me know what to say.  D.M. in Westwood, MA

My friend replied with this…..We are a group of 135 survivors in the Greater Boston area, so our opinion is valid in this case.  D.M is absolutely right in how she handles her cancer.  Her friend should be sensitive to the fact that she is handling her situation in a healthy, positive way.  It does not diminish the severity, it just helps her cope an move on.  No matter how loving and supportive your friends and family are, they do not understand fully what the patient is dealing with.  They mean well and we appreciate it.  But we, as survivors, have to deal with it alone, in a manner of speaking.  Our members joke about cancer all the time.  It empowers us.  Please feel free to share my email with D.M., Linda from Survivors by the Sea

This exact circumstance happened to me. This angered me so much when I was going through chemo. My boss at the time actually pulled me aside to tell me that my jokes and sense of humor was making people uncomfortable at work!! Now just to give you a frame of reference- I would make the occasional joke about being bald or a wig joke- nothing major and I definitely wasn’t standing around being a stand-up comedian all day. But when my boss told me that – I was just aghast that she would say something like that. I was trying to make them More comfortable by joking about it and they took it the wrong way. If I didn’t make jokes about the side affects and the cancer treatment- what should I have been doing? crying? I guess they would have rather seen me cry. But they did see me cry- who wants to be the one that everyone feels sorry for everyday? I learned a very important lesson that day- that co-workers who are sympathetic for the flu or a cold are not necessarily going to be sympathetic for the long haul, for a 6-9 months of going through cancer treatment. They don’t get it at all. All they had to do was laugh at my jokes to be supportive- I was the one going through the actual cancer treatment. Couldn’t they put aside their needs for just a little bit?

Joking about cancer is so vital to having a healthy state of mind. “Cancer is temporary.” (also from my brilliant friend Linda) We are not the cancer, we are so much more than that. (and just as an aside- like everyone I have lost people to cancer) Like Linda said – joking about cancer – empowers us. And if wasn’t for my awesome support group and family who can laugh about all the crazy shit that happens during treatment- I would have been overcome with the weight of such a battle. So if anyone ever tells you to stops joking about cancer- and your the one going through it- tell them to read this!