Cancer hates laughter.
Laughter is one of those uniquely human qualities that’s been studied in intricate detail. It’s good for us. I boosts the immune system and improves our mood.
When my diagnosis was confirmed, my husband said, “You’re such an overachiever. I get the flu and you get cancer.” I thought this was hilarious.
Humour is, of course, a very personal thing and nobody ever admits to having a bad sense of humour. What my family and I find funny would be considered in poor taste by some people. I can’t stand slapstick or ‘funniest home video’ type shows because they rely upon someone being hurt or embarrassed and I just don’t find it funny. I’m more of a Monty Python and Tim Minchin fan and not so keen on Seinfield or anything else that strikes me as essentially nasty.
In the week leading up to my first appointment with the surgeon I tried to laugh as much as I possibly could, and my family did everything they could to help. We dug out funny movies and TV shows, we made every joke we could about cancer and I spent spare time with friends that are enthusiastic about having a good time.
I found children’s movies were a great distraction and a guaranteed laugh. If you’ve never seen Shrek, or Mulan, or Kung-Fu Panda then give it a try. Children’s movies are designed to have plenty of laughs and they always have a happy ending. They’re a great distraction when cancer wants to own your thinking.
One of my closest friends went to the movies with me to see Despicable Me Too and I think we laughed louder than the children in the theatre.
I also spent the week researching triple negative breast cancer. Here’s my quick guide to internet research:
* Articles are usually written to catch a reader’s interest and tend to use highly emotional language. Don’t let it upset you. I found articles that made it sound like I was facing imminent death. Remember, they’re just being dramatic. Check the footnotes for any research they’re referring to and see if you can find the actual report from the scientists.
* Scientific articles are hard to read. They’re full of jargon and scientific terms and even with the help of an online medical dictionary they can feel like wading through mud. Try just reading the summary, the first couple of paragraphs and the last couple of paragraphs. If you don’t get the gist of it, don’t worry about it.
* If you google the word ‘cancer’ followed by just about anything else you will find someone, somewhere that believes the second word is a cancer cure. For a good time try ‘leeches’, ‘bananas’ and ‘enemas’. I kid you not. I’m not dismissing the possibility that at some time in the future a double blind trial might establish that lots of as yet undiscovered things are good for preventing or treating cancer but we’re not there yet.
* It’s likely that at some point you’ll discover that there’s a lot of research into cannabis and cancer. Based on what I’ve found this actually looks very promising. There’s clearly evidence that some of the substances in cannabis can effect cancer cells. Because a lot of this research is in vitro or carried out on rats the official stance of most cancer agencies is that there is ‘no evidence’ of its benefits. That’s not true. There’s plenty of evidence but only a small amount of it involves human trials. I’m not advocating you do anything illegal and I think if you live somewhere that it’s legal and you want to try juicing cannabis, or ingesting the oil made from it, you should talk to your doctor first. From what I’ve read there’s still no medical evidence for smoking it and you can still do your lungs a lot of harm with any kind of smoke.
* Some people, like me, thrive on lots and lots of information. For me it’s a case of knowing my enemy. Some people prefer ignorance. If you’re up against cancer you should always do what feels right for you.
One form of communication that’s been really beneficial to me has been Facebook. It’s an excellent way to keep everyone updated on what’s happening and a wonderful source of positive quotes and memes. I did get a few messages from people suggesting alternative cures and I think it’s best to remember that anyone sending you this kind of information is genuinely trying to help: “Thank you for thinking of me. I don’t want to do anything until I’ve met with my doctor.” and later, “My doctor tells me I shouldn’t mix anything with my chemo but I’ll certainly keep it in mind if my chemo doesn’t work.”
Of course, I did this while laughing to myself, “As if! There’s no way my chemo isn’t going to be successful!”
Eight days after my diagnosis and I was probably the happiest cancer patient my surgeon had ever met. I was even happier when she looked at my ultrasound and declared, “That certainly looks like a primary cancer to me.”
If you’ve been with me from the beginning you’ll remember that my pathology included the possibility that my breast cancer was a secondary cancer. Scary.
Just to be on the safe side my surgeon wanted me to have an MRI, a CT scan and a bone scan.
Another week of tests with no medical treatment for my highly aggressive cancer. You can imagine how funny I found that. Not one bit. Not funny at all.