The Healing Powers of Humor
I must start off by assuring the reader that when I say humor has healing powers, I do not suggest that humor can heal or cure a body from cancer. That would be an outrageous statement, which has at times been suggested to me, alongside hundreds of other “cures.” What I mean is that humor during difficult times is an amazing coping mechanism that can distract the patient, the caregiver, friends, and family from the harsh reality they find themselves in.
Finding myself in a surreal and awkward place
I recently relapsed again, and it seems I have run out of options. My doctor has told me that without treatment, my prognosis does not look good. Knowing how my myeloma has behaved over the past six-and-a-half years, I know I am running out of time. I currently do not qualify for the many trials that are out there. My cancer has become sneaky, so it does not show up much in my blood, even though new tumors and lesions showed up on my last CT scan. My white blood cells and platelets are low, even after a year-long break from chemo, so I don’t qualify there either. Repeating approved treatments has proven ineffective in the past and will only destroy my bone marrow to the point where any opportunity to enter another trial will become impossible.
I find myself in a surreal and awkward place. It feels like I may be one of the people who will not make it out of this cancer alive. I have not given up hope, but I am also being realistic. This acknowledgment has allowed me to sit down with my family and have the tough but necessary talks on how it is we wish to spend our final months together. If you are taken aback from my seemingly easy acceptance, I assure you this has been a long and tough journey.
My cancer has been aggressive and stubborn from the start, and the fact that I made it past five years is pretty amazing. The fact that I got to see my fiftieth birthday is pretty awesome. It is my hope that I get to celebrate my daughter's 14th birthday in October, and that I may be there when my son graduates from college in December. None of these are guaranteed. Then again, nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. The difference between patients like myself and others who don’t have a terminal disease is that my family and I are aware of the impending end.
Finding laughter in a dark time
I told my husband I want to spend this time doing as much family stuff together, and one great way of doing this with a body that does not always want to get off the couch is through bonding over a movie. Drama has always been my favorite genre, but this has recently changed. I want to be surrounded by light topics and laughter. Comedies are proving to be the best medicine. I have a goofy, sometimes inappropriate sense of humor and not everyone may approve of my choice in movies.
Last night, we watched the movie 40-Year Old Virgin. At one point, Andy (played by Steve Carell) got his chest waxed. As a beautician, I watched in utter amazement how he allowed his very hairy chest to be waxed. I cringed and laughed so hard I almost fell off the couch. In that moment, the concern of my diagnosis and death took a backseat, and the joy of watching my daughter and husband laughing filled my soul with endless joy. This is how I wish to spend the next months. If I qualify for a trial, I will happily accept and give it another shot. If I don’t, I will make sure to make as many happy memories as I can, and finding hilarious movies will be a staple in our family’s life for the months to come.
Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 23, 2019, Cherie Rineker passed away. We are honored that Cherie shared her experiences with our community and beyond. She will be deeply missed.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?