Recently I’ve been thinking about how important humour was to me during my treatment.
When I was first diagnosed my husband was just recovering from a cold. When we got the news about my TNBC he said, “You’re such an over achiever! I get the flu and you get cancer!”
His sense of humour was wonderful during treatment. He could always make me smile. When I was at my absolute flattest he said to me, “I guess we won’t be tap dancing today then?”
Sometimes he’d make a joke in public and there would be audible gasps from other people. How could he say such a thing! I suppose that’s the risk with humour; the test of a joke is whether or not the audience laughs, not whether or not you meant it to be funny.
We’ve been together long enough for Graham to have a pretty good idea about what will make me laugh. Yes, sometimes his efforts were met with a frown or an eye-roll, but it was usually followed by a thin-lipped smile in recognition of his efforts. I appreciated that he was trying to make me laugh, even when he didn’t.
I’ve had friends make some great jokes when I was feeling blue and I’ve also had some awkward moments. One very dear friend came to a quiet celebration of the end of my radiation treatment. “No more cancer limelight for you!” he quipped, “Time to step out of the spotlight and let someone else be the centre of attention.” We all laughed.
A couple of weeks later when they picked up calcification in my scans he was mortified. When I told him I needed a mastectomy he was shaken and immediately apologetic about his ‘stupid’ comment. But it wasn’t stupid. It was funny at the time. I didn’t feel like I needed an apology.
I recently told him I was now at the three year mark and joked with him about finally stepping out of the spotlight. We both laughed.
That’s the wonderful thing about laughter. It has this amazing ability to lift us out of the shadows and move us into the sunshine. It’s probably why ‘comedian’ is an actual profession. We value those that can make us laugh.
Certainly one of the most beneficial jokes during my whole treatment came from my yoga buddy, Jan. She’s naturally flat chested. When I turned up to class feeling fragile and sharing the recent news that I needed a mastectomy she responded with, “We can be flat mates together!”
She did so much more than make me laugh that day. She helped me to realise that not having breasts was not the end of the world, that there are plenty of women who’ve never had them and that being beautiful and feminine is not dependant upon them.
It also struck me that up until that point I had never noticed she was flat chested. Even though we were both in skin tight yoga gear. We see the whole person, not their breasts.
Okay, there’s almost certainly a small group of men that see breasts first but I really don’t care about their opinion. Having been an F cup for most of my adult life I’m very familiar with this type of creature. No longer being attractive to them is an added bonus!
One of the most popular posts I’ve written for this blog was about all the things I could do now that I didn’t have breasts. It seems everyone’s favourite was ‘trampolining’.
Humour is a risk when you’re talking to someone whose miserable and ill. It takes a special kind of bravery to risk being snapped at. Some people find it hard to even raise a smile when they’re unwell. That’s why I have so much gratitude for the people that took the risk, made a joke and often made me smile as a consequence.
My husband was exceptionally good at this.
When the news came back that the breast tissue removed during my mastectomy was cancer free he said,”That’s great news. Are they going to put them back on?”
But my favourite joke was the night before my mastectomy when I asked him if he wanted to kiss my breasts goodbye. “Nope. I’m totally over them. They tried to kill you.” It was the best thing he could have said.