“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
– Oscar Wilde
I noticed recently that April has been designated both as “Cancer Control Month” and “Humor Month.” Is that a coincidence? Patients often find that humor is important, even essential, to recovery after cancer treatment. Cancer survivor newsletters, support activities, and Web sites often contain references to the value of laughter and a positive attitude.
Has this been studied in detail? Maybe not in the depth that serious-minded scientists would require, but the value is re-discovered daily by cancer patients and their families.
For many years, I had a delightful patient in my practice who lived with an indolent cancer in one manifestation or another for over 30 years. Over the years, her treatment required several operations and two courses of radiation. She knew more about side effects than all of her doctors put together.
Despite everything, though, she spent countless hours as a community volunteer. She brought joy (and hugs) to the office whenever she visited. She made sure that we always had plenty of chocolate after each appointment. She never forgot Valentine’s Day. She was an inspiration to each person who met her. Even as a hospice patient, she smiled and joked, trying to cajole her friends and family into being happy with her just one more time.
Cancer is not a laughing matter. It alters and threatens people’s lives and relationships. For some, though, it brings strength, focus, and renewal. Sometimes, “Cancer Control” and “Humor” do belong together.
___A previous version was originally published in the MCW Cancer Center News.
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There is truth in the adage "Laughter is the best medicine".