Sometimes All You Can Do is Laugh
Everything happens for a reason
Even if you don’t know why
Sometimes all you can do is laugh
Otherwise, you’d cry...
Last year I wrote a song called Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh. It relayed the challenges I faced in 2021; a destructive winter storm, a massive scar on my face from skin cancer treatment, a broken leg, and the list goes on and on. It wasn’t the best year by any stretch, with all that went wrong. Yet, after reflecting on the year, I had to laugh.
Less than stellar year
I had a similar “less than stellar” year in 2016. In June, I received a call from my primary doctor. He said my blood levels were all elevated. He referred me to a hematologist. After many tests, she said had a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera or PV. I learned my bone marrow made too many red blood cells, causing thick blood. With blood, the consistency of molasses, my risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots increased significantly.
I had barely absorbed this news when I faced with another setback, invasive ductal carcinoma, or breast cancer. I felt a lump, had it checked out, and it was malignant. Two cancers within a couple months of each other. I was in shock.
The next year was an arduous blur of chemo, ER trips, scans, medications, and surgeries. Just when I thought things were looking up, Murphy’s Law came into play. Whatever could go wrong, did. Through it all, I tried to keep a sense of humor. What else could I do?
The power of laughter
Early in my cancer journey, I learned the power of laughter. One day at my office, right after I found out I needed chemo for the breast cancer, I was feeling sorry for myself and complaining about losing my hair and eyebrows. My friend reached into his desk and pulled out a Sharpie and said with a smile, “we can fix that.” I laughed so hard. Was it silly? Yes, but I immediately felt better.
I continued using humor to cope with all the cancer struggles I faced by watching a lot of comedies; both on TV and in movies. Friends was on Netflix during this time, so my sons and I binge watched all 10 seasons, joining along with the laugh track.
I also found if I could joke around about what I was going through and not take things too seriously, I was more relaxed and at ease. A good example was my melanoma in situ diagnosis and subsequent Mohs procedure that left a 5-inch scar across my face. I was very depressed initially but then I kidded about I was all set to be Frankenstein for Halloween. It still sucked but I was less distraught after laughing about it
Laughter can mitigate the effects of stress, depression, anxiety, and pain. When you laugh, your breathing increases your oxygen intake, and this stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. In addition, it allows your brain to release endorphins. Laughing also can improve your circulation both which helps reduce some symptoms of stress.1
Laughter can also be an be a valuable tool for connecting the provider, caregiver, patient, and family.
There is even laughter therapy, which uses humor to help patients deal with cancer and other serious diseases. It’s used to augment other conventional treatments. Some examples include comedies, clowns, games, laughter exercises and the following comedians on YouTube.
Humor has gotten me thorough a lot since my cancer diagnosis. As my song goes...
Humor can get you through tough times
Out of despair, help you climb
So instead of lament
Laugh to your heart’s content
Does humor help you cope with your blood cancer?
Have you met another blood cancer patient?