Cancer is shit. We know that. But we also know there are moments that are humorous, moments when we wish for more humour, and moments that are better in retrospect. Read on to learn what your YACCtivists had to say about “laughter”:
A reason to laugh is sometimes just so you don’t cry or feel the need to run away. When I was in the middle of treatment and my husband had been admitted to the hospital (for a second time) with an infection in his heart, all I could do was laugh, wondering how much shit could go so wrong to two people at one time and what horrible things we must have done to the universe to deserve it. Laughing was all I could do to survive those moments.
Most people don’t chuckle at the sight of a tangerine; I am not most people.
About three weeks into my initial hospital stay after my diagnosis, I was barred from eating solid food. I was fed nutrients strictly through IV. Powering through a full week of that, I was finally, FINALLY, given a menu to map out my meals for the following week.
“Do they serve garlic mashed potatoes?” I thought. The first things I ordered were mac and cheese for lunch and chicken fingers for dinner. Nothing special, but after seven days of liquids only, they sounded like Michelin-star dishes.
The following day, when my dad opened the door to pick up my food tray, he exclaimed in a whispered “Uh-oh.” That wasn’t a good sign.
There, sitting neatly on a plate, was a single tangerine, and an apple juice.
If I had the strength, the tangerine would have been thrown 16 stories down and with luck have landed on a car windshield.
It’s the most memorable, and hilarious story of my cancer journey, especially after the fact. This experience pushed me forward throughout my treatment by giving me a reason to smile. It’s my dad’s favourite cancer memory to this day, and quite frankly I share his amusement.
If you can’t laugh, let alone laugh at yourself, then what can you do?
Sitting here, trying to think of a time when there was laughter while going through this. I can’t remember the last time I had a really good laugh. For so long there have been fake smiles and answers of “I’m fine” with no substance. There is no expression and no feeling. If someone could see inside me, I would look like an empty jar.
YACC brought me laughter. It brought me connections to others that get what it is like to receive a cancer diagnosis as a young adult. We can joke and see the funny moments in this type of experience. Others that have not had a diagnosis can see these moments differently and more seriously.
My son’s perspective brought me some laughter when I first told him about my diagnosis. Our family had multiple close family members fight or who were still fighting cancer, so my kids were familiar with the word. I remember both my son (aged eight) and daughter (aged six-and-a-half) sitting at their kids’ table in the living room. I had just gotten home from work and went into the living room. I said I needed to tell them something important. I said those fresh words, still tough to say out loud: “Mommy has cancer.”
I was not sure how the kids would react. Would they cry? Would they be scared? My son replied to me: “Mom, is cancer contagious?”
Once I let him know that cancer was not something that was contagious, he continued to play with his toy. I was surprised at his reaction; I had not thought that he would react so calmly. This perspective showed me that some parts of this cancer journey can also bring or create laughter and that it is okay to laugh at moments like this!
Laughter can help make a bad day better. While it can’t wash away all the other emotions, it can help to ease things for a few moments and makes the tough stuff just a little bit easier to work through.
I didn’t initially find many laughter moments in my diagnosis or treatment. Now, four years after my diagnosis, I am realizing that there were a few moments that I had overlooked. I recall the day before I was to get my radioactive iodine treatment and isolate for five days. I went to my family doctor’s office to receive my second shot of Thyrogen which was needed to help my body prepare for the radioactive iodine treatment the following day. It was in January, and it was dirty, slushy snow weather out. I arrived at my appointment and needed to remove my boots. I left them with the other patients’ boots and continued to get my injection. After that, I headed back to the full patient area and could not find my boots.
Of course, I loved these winter boots. I had gotten them a few years ago in Alberta and they were cozy and so comfortable. I kept looking around the waiting room to see if they were just moved. I could not find them.
I went to speak to the receptionist. They were surprised that my boots were gone. I was starting to worry since I had to drive to work and had no footwear to use. The receptionist went to find my doctor; she came out with an extra pair of her indoor shoes that fit me and said I could borrow or keep the shoes. This kind gesture was very reassuring to me. She hugged me and said that she would see me after the treatment.
The receptionist was amazing and tracked down my missing boots and called me while I was in isolation to let me know and to check on me. Post-treatment, I was able to pop by and grab them. Looking back, it is funny to me how worked up I was over losing my boots, as they are just boots. In the grand scheme of things, boots can be replaced. But it was the kindness of my doctor and her staff that has stayed with me.