Three faces of elderly people laughing.

Humor in the Face of Bladder Cancer

Mark Twain once said, "Humor is mankind's greatest blessing." I know firsthand that it is not always easy to find the humor around you in light of the news that you have cancer. Feelings of fear and the unknown can be overwhelming. It's beyond stressful. However, laughter can be quite healing.

Humor changes your perspective

Mental health writer and advocate Therese J. Bochard stated, "Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: of the past and of the present."1 This is a fact I am immensely grateful for. Thinking back to the beginning, I am beyond grateful for my friends for hitting me with the jokes when I couldn't see past the end of the day.

Joking with a friend helped clear my mind

The day I received my diagnosis, I absolutely could not sit at home on my own. I called a friend and went to her house for the remainder of the day. It didn't take long for the jokes to flow. Mentions of being able to use urinals, "relieve myself" on the side of the road to keep going on long road trips, and the newfound ability to write my name in the snow. Ridiculous, yes. Crude, even, to some. Yet, it was just what I needed to help clear my head enough to wrap my mind around what my doctor's colleague had just relayed to me.

I kept myself busy and focused on a plan

Over the next weeks, I put myself to doing research, sharing the news with all the necessary people, planning fundraising and social media campaigns, and figuring out how I was going to deal with this gigantic obstacle that appeared in my life. I was, in fact, terrified. I hid it behind a brave front and a plan.

Meeting with my urologic oncology surgeon

When I first met with my urologic oncology surgeon, he explained where the tumor was and what his plan for me was. Humor reared itself during the appointment. My doctor didn't quite know how to deal with it. He explained that in addition to the radical cystectomy, he wanted to do a total hysterectomy, including a salpingo-oophorectomy - basically, my bladder and all my lady bits would be removed. I agreed to the plan so quickly, he was concerned that I did not understand what he was explaining to me about the procedure.

Losing internal organs to save my life

After my doctor picked his jaw up off the floor, I explained to him that I knew exactly what he meant and that I was not using the parts he wanted, so he could have them. He could donate them to science or put them in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf in his office. I didn't care what he did with them. My friend, a nurse, was next to me and stifled a chuckle. I was speaking the truth. My goal was to press the ejector button in my Batmobile and send that cancer flying into outer space! Sacrificing internal organs that I had no use for and wanted removed 20 years ago was a small price to pay for my life.

After my appointment and many times since my friends and I have laughed at that story. It helped me get through some rough times during the next 7 months of treatment and recovery.

Other things that made me smile and laugh

Other things that helped me get through the rough times: comedic movies, kids movies, distracting conversations with friends, and many other things. I was practically on the hunt for things to make me smile and laugh. I couldn't wait to hear the latest silly high-jinx of my friends' children and spouses. Calls and care packages from my college friends with reminders of things that we experienced 20 years before were lifesavers and gave me opportunities to share the stories with my local friends who hadn't heard them before.

Some of the laughter turned to tears, but overall, the laughter helped turn the tears to proverbial gold. Now, I make an effort to always help people fighting cancer or chronic diseases smile.

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