As I discussed in my first two posts, I successfully used humor to make it through my breast cancer diagnosis and a battery of tests and doctors. But surgery and treatment are where the rubber meets the road.
Until I had my bilateral mastectomy, I had never once been a hospital patient or even had so much as a stitch. I think that explains the confusion at the admissions desk. While I was certain I had reserved a king bed with an ocean view, the hospital kept insisting that all they had was a double with an alley view. Maybe cancer wasn’t going to be so funny after all. Fortunately, the hospital upgraded me to the Princess Suite with a great view and full amenities. Once I was comfy, off to surgery I went.
When I woke up from surgery, my original breasts were sitting in a jar somewhere, and in their place I had two little bumps where the plastic surgeon had put expanders to keep the skin around the breast stretched until I finished my treatment and had reconstruction surgery. A month or so later I was minding my own business when out of nowhere the expander on the right migrated from my chest to my side.
On the bright side I had a wealth of new comedy material, and Side Boob Situation is a great name for a band. And sure, I’d heard stories about young body-conscious women electing side boobs, but it just isn’t my style. Let the young people experiment with tattoos and piercings and side boobs; I’ll take traditional chest boobs, thank you very much. Unfortunately, I had to sport a side boob for 7 months as I made my way through chemo treatment.
As my treatment progressed, I wanted to focus on the things that really matter in life. For example, there was the question of continuously milking sympathy from family and friends. I didn’t want them to lose interest! That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: surely material goods would make me feel better. People receive gifts for weddings and babies–was breast cancer not a significant life event? That’s when I started my Breast Cancer Registry at Tiffany.I didn’t go nuts or anything, just a couple of tennis bracelets, a sapphire and diamond ring, a few pendants and a lovely pair of pearl earrings. It doesn’t cure cancer but it sure makes a girl look better while she’s battling her way through it.
Just as I was completing my gift registry, I realized my second chemo treatment was scheduled for April Fool’s Day. Yes! Is there a better day all year to be hanging out in a hospital? I think not. Nothing got out of hand or anything; just one harmless saline squirt war. Sadly, I went down under friendly fire. I think the nurses had an unfair advantage though, since they didn’t have to drag IV poles around with them during battle. But hey, I’m not one to whine.
It’s true that my treatment was difficult and painful at times, but I continued to use laughter as the best medicine. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Ever helped someone you love see the humor in a tough situation? Share your experience 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.