How to bring humor back into your life.

Three days after undergoing breast cancer surgery in December, ’94, I heard the doorbell ring downstairs from my place of rest in my bedroom.

“Mom!” screamed my second-grader, Brooks, “More flowers for your breast!” It was a turning point for me, his innocent statement brought laughter to my already developing self-pity. After all, as a young child of 15, I watched my mother crawl into bed with a diagnosis of cancer at the age of 38. In the months that followed my mother’s radical mastectomy, my family watched in horror as she sank into a shockingly deep, clinical depression. Eventually, my father left my mother, no longer able to deal with her depression. She died in my arms at the age of 42.

I made a pivotal decision years later as I lay in bed pondering the cancer in my body — that no matter how many weeks, months, years I had left on this planet, that I would celebrate every day as a gift. I would not allow my family members to live in the fear I had as a child, that every day might be my last. Humor would pull me through. Once I started searching for signs of humor, I found it all around me.

One day I was sitting on our deck reading the paper, my bald head gleaming in the morning sunrise. Brooks, along with several neighborhood children, had pitched a tent in the backyard and spent the night outside. As the kids woke up one by one, they started their morning conversation. Of course, since I couldn’t see them in the tent, they assumed I couldn’t hear them, either.

“Brooks,” began our neighbor Rishi, peering from the mesh windows of the tent, “What’s the matter with your mom again?”

“She has cancer,” Brooks responded.
“Is she going to die?” Rishi inquired.
“No…I don’t think so,” said Brooks.
“You know, Brooks, her head looks like a baseball. Do you think she’d let us autograph it?”

Families can be a great source of comfort and humor in tough times. Unfortunately, we often don’t know what to say when faced by a family member who has been diagnosed with cancer, or we don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, often times, we don’t say anything and pull away from the patient who so desperately needs our attention. Therefore, it is often the patients themselves who need to “set the tone” and let family members know the timing is right to bring laughter back into their life. How can we accomplish this? Easily:

Set The Tone to let family members, friends and caregivers know you are ready for laughter again. Share a funny story about something that happened years ago with your family. Cut out a cartoon from the paper that brought a smile to your face and mail to your family members with a note that says, “I’m doing much better now. Thanks for your support.”

Keep The Momentum Going to encourage humor with your family members. If you’ve read a funny book that filled your heart with laughter and joy, pass it around to family members with a note on which parts you found particularly humorous. Tell a joke you’ve recently heard, or send family members an article that tickled your funny bone.

It’s Like A Rubber Ball: It Comes Bouncing Back To You! Once you’ve opened the door to humor, it’s contagious. Family members and friends will realize that laughter is the best medicine they can provide you. After all, learning to laugh at trouble radically increases the amount of things there are to laugh at. Take time, make the time every day to love, learn, explore, care and live with your family members. And, by the way: Don’t forget to laugh!TM