In my first post, Laughing at My Cancer, I talked about my use of a humor as a coping mechanism when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s one thing to maintain a sense of humor while the disease is still an abstract concept, but what about when all the gears start moving? The beauty of using humor is that once you look at things from that vantage point, you can’t stop. And if you commit yourself, as I did, to coming back with funny anecdotes for your family and friends, you even start looking for the humor because you don’t want to disappoint.
As soon as I was diagnosed, seeing specialists and undergoing medical testing became my full-time job. Day in and day out, a different nurse would escort me to a treatment room and tell me to put on a gown while whispering “Open in the front” as if that was our little secret.
Gowns ranged from extra-small tops that didn’t begin to wrap over my breasts to little capes covered in kittens or puppies or unicorns majestically leaping over rainbows. If I wasn’t looking at everything through funny-vision, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind that I would have to possess some very impressive super powers if I was going to leap off a tall building in a unicorn cape. Are these the profound insights I was supposed to be having as I pondered my own mortality? I mean, I wasn’t even on painkillers yet!
The PET scan was a little tough because I had to drink 36 ounces of barium on an empty stomach and then wait for the dye they injected to spread through my body. I was holding my own until the nurse said that it was very important that I sit quietly for an hour. Just as I went to clutch my phone she snagged it. While doing my best to sit quietly in the dark, it hit me that this is the kind of traumatic thing cancer patients go through but never talk about.
My all-time, hands-down favorite test ever was the breast MRI. I spied the little narrow board I would be lying on, and it had two big holes cut out of it. Wow, maybe I could bring my coffee in with me if they had such nice cup holders. But when the nurse told me to lay on my stomach, the purpose of the holes became all too clear. I reluctantly set aside my half-caff skinny mocha latte.
I was relatively composed when I dropped each of my breasts through a hole. But when the nurse bent down under the table and started pushing my breasts this way and that to position them, there was only one thing to do. I repeatedly gave my best city girl mooooo. By all accounts from the cast of thousands in the room and behind the glass, I made their day. Frankly, I didn’t think I was all that original. How could you not moo in that situation? It takes all kinds, I guess.
How is laughter a medicine in your life? Tell us in the comments section below.
Jill Foer Hirsch is a breast cancer survivor, writer and humorist. While battling breast cancer in 2010, she documented her experience on CaringBridge, and in addition to family and friends she heard from breast cancer survivors, cancer patients, and those whose lives had been touched by cancer that they found her unique sense of humor and positive outlook inspirational. Hoping to encourage and support a wider audience, Jill adapted the journal into a book, When Good Boobs Turn Bad: A Mammoir. Learn more at www.jillfoerhirsch.com.