Humor as a tool to healing
I could tell you so many things about the terror, pain, humiliating procedures and sheer tedium or having cancer but that would only be half the story. When I was diagnosed with Bladder cancer I remember the terror. The day after my biopsy I went to my computer and looked up Invasive Bladder Cancer and this is what I read “The standard treatment is a type of surgery called radical cystectomy, which removes the bladder, together with nearby lymph nodes and adjacent pelvic organs. In men, this procedure includes removal of the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. In women, it includes removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and part of the vagina.” I couldn’t breath to scream. When my personal physician called with my pathology result we both cried. When my Urologist said “you do know that you may die no matter what we do?” I to this day am still searching for the appropriate answer to that one.
At forty seven I learned I was more worried about how I would die that when. Would it be with dignity, could I handle the pain? If pressed I could tell you the nitty gritty of twenty trips to the infusion unit and forty to the radiation. I could tell you the side affects and what that does to a body. I could tell you about being in surgery seven times in a year. And I could tell you what it is like to try to retain you dignity when you are a thing on a slab in a teaching hospital, with your most private parts probed and seen by the world. Yes I could tell you many things but they would not be changed by the telling.
The other half of the story is this. I have sat taking chemotherapy with a woman who knew she would not see this Christmas with her children, and laughed until we cried about silly things. I have seen bald headed children laughing and playing as if the world was right toting their IV poles around the infusion unit. I have read things in chat rooms and list servers form other survivors that would hold no humor for others but make me smile because I know where they come from. I have found humor in things I would have been appalled at a year had a half ago. I have made jokes about glowing in the dark, being bald, bodily functions and a few things better left unmentioned. And in that humor I have found hope. The human spirit is stronger than the cancer. I really have no choice about what happens to me in the future. But I do have a choice how I handle it. Do I sit around and cry the rest of my life about what a rotten hand I have been given? Or do I find joy and laughter given the opportunity? I would think the answer would be obvious, what a waste to cry when you can laugh. And I think that is the most important part of the story.