Thursday, September 13, 2012

Laughter Vs Cancer


When I was younger my dad use to sing the lyrics from “Love & Marriage” which the lyrist wrote “go together like a horse and carriage”. The word cancer is rarely paired with laughter or humor. When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, I knew humor would play a vital role in my healing. So I made it a point to go on-line and find prostate cancer jokes.
Two of my favorite jokes were
Doctor: I've got your test results and some bad news. You have prostate cancer and Alzheimer's.
Man:  That’s great news! I was afraid I had prostate cancer.  

Doctor: (After performing a digital rectal exam tells his patient) I’ve got bad news for you. I felt a suspicious lump and I am ordering a biopsy.
Patient: I’d like you to repeat the exam using a different finger.
Doctor: Why should I do that?
Patient: Because I’d like a second opinion.

These jokes had the desired effect. Staring cancer in the face (or my case my backside) I laughed. I knew I’d cope with prostate cancer much better if I could find things that were funny along this journey. When it was time to find a title for my book I wanted it to be humorous.

Coming up with a humorous title was too challenging a task for me to accomplish alone, so I asked for help through prayer.  The title “I Left My Prostate In San Francisco-Where’s Yours? was an answer to my prayer. When I tested this title on men with prostate cancer, their first reaction was to laugh. It’s my belief if a man newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can laugh at the title of my book, the first step toward emotional healing began before the first page was read.      

Unfortunately, a few weeks after surgery, I had an experience which I refer to as the day the laughter died.  After my catheter was pulled, I found myself without any urinary control. I was doing very poorly with learning how to live in adult diapers. More than once I’d go some place only to find a short time later I’d leaked through my diaper and wet my pants.

One day my wife and I were at the mall. I felt my legs feeling wet. I looked down at my shoes. I stared down in horror when I realized they were wet with drops. It looked like I’d been walking in the rain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t raindrops soaking my sneakers. It was urine. I told Brenda “It’s time to go home.” I left the mall humiliated. I decided that was the end of my leaving the house. For the next month I stayed at home. I refused to go anywhere. I didn’t want visitors. I didn’t want to talk with any one. I wanted to be left alone.

In self-imposed isolation, I began sinking deeper and deeper into a major depression. Nothing was funny. I’d lost my ability to laugh. I hated my life, which consisted of changing my diaper twenty five times a day. I thought choosing surgery was the worst decision I’d made in my lifetime. I closed my mind to the possibility of ever enjoying my life again.

It took a Charley Brown comic to bring a smile to my face. Brenda told me about a comic where Charley Brown talked about learning to hate one day at a time. My own hatred of my life spanned decades into the future. The idea of hating one day at a time represented a healthy shift in my thinking. In fact the comic reminded me of this bible verse:
Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (NKJ).

Even though I stopped projecting my despair decades into my future, my depression would continue for many more months. Even though the dark times continued on, I experienced a lightening of the load as I learned to hate one day at time. An important additional blessing occurred. I began to laugh again.
My recommendation to anyone facing cancer is find as many things as you can to laugh about. Rent funny movies, tell jokes, invite your humorous friends to a party. Take time to surround yourself with people you can laugh with.

Prov 17:22 says: A merry heart does good, like medicine. (NKJV) As a bible believing Christian I’m gratified to say thousands of years before science proved this to be true, God told us it was.