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Even With Cancer, We All Need to Lighten Up

Cancer is a serious disease, but approaching life with a lighter and happier attitude will help cancer survivors.
PUBLISHED October 18, 2017
Jane has earned three advanced degrees and had several fulfilling careers as a librarian, rehabilitation counselor and college teacher. Presently she does freelance writing. Her articles include the subjects of hearing loss and deafness, service dogs and struggling with cancer. She has been a cancer survivor since 2010.

She has myelodysplastic syndrome, which is rare, and would love to communicate with others who have MDS.
One of the most interesting things I have learned through this roller coaster journey with cancer is the importance of humor.

No, cancer is not funny. There are many disasters caused by nature and humans that happen on a daily basis that aren’t funny, either. Unfortunately, we are bombarded by the news 24/7 reminding up about these horrible events.

If one follows the news about cancer, it can drive you crazy. I remember many years ago when I was a kid, a big scare occurred from a research study that “proved” red Jell-O caused cancer. Mothers across the country panicked and stopped feeding their kids red Jell-O. My own Mother, who was always the epitome of calm, laughed. She felt a balanced diet was the key to anything and was not worried at all. Years later, the researchers confessed the results of the study were skewed because they gave copious amounts of red Jell-O to tiny little mice and for a human to consume that much Jell-O comparatively was impossible.

I used to be a counselor. I always said that stress makes any health problems worse. Have you ever picked at a hangnail and the next thing you know it is bleeding? I know it is stupid, but continue to do it. If we stress over a simple hangnail, imagine what we do to our bodies when we worry and fret and carry on. This is counterproductive.

I love to be around people who do not take themselves too seriously. I am on a patient advisory council at the hospital where I receive my chemo treatments. The first observation I made at our initial meeting of cancer survivors was the humor – the laughing and the communal spirit we shared. Several of the members had undergone surgeries and pain I couldn’t even fathom. I realized how lucky I was. But instead of obsessing, they made a big fuss over my service dog, talked about how to make the waiting room more bearable for other people and were positive instead of negative.

I had a student who suffered from breast cancer and never missed a class during the rugged treatments. She joked with me that she did not need to shave as she wore a turban where her hair was gone. She not only survived, but went on to graduate and become an occupational therapist. What a fantastic attitude and an inspiring person!

Maybe this is one reason they are survivors. Every single one of us has a story. Life is a series of wonderful incidents. My dog makes me laugh everyday when she rolls in the grass and loves life. My neighbor’s children fill my heart with joy. I love to go out with friends and laugh and snicker. The cruises I have taken are better therapy for my cancer than any treatment.

I believe that we should occasionally enjoy the piece of chocolate, or dish of ice cream or the donut.

And admit any mistakes you make. In her book titled “God is Always Hiring,” author Regina Brett talks about the culture of Amish people, which is fascinating. The world’s largest number of Old Order Amish lives near my home. They go back several centuries and do not drive cars, have electricity or possess worldly things. They are also beautiful quilters. Each quilt made by an Amish woman has a tiny mistake on purpose. They are strict believers in the Bible and feel that the only perfect being is God. Therefore, they cannot make the perfect quilt.

Think about this – not only admitting a mistake but not allowing oneself to be perfect. I find that very refreshing! 

So, do not be perfect. It is alright to cry, to be in a grumpy mood, to not be the wonderful patient all the time. And it is also OK to laugh at yourself. Everyone is still teasing me about going to my family doctor after receiving a panel of blood work. I was absolutely having a fit because my cholesterol was so high. I started telling him how I changed my diet and everything. He was rolling on the floor as he explained it was my good cholesterol, it was off the chart and he guaranteed me I would never die of a heart attack. Sheepishly I calmed down, then laughed at myself and told all the cancer survivors in my nutrition class.

Lighten up, laugh at yourself, don’t try to be perfect, kiss your loved ones and enjoy that dessert.

None of us get out alive, anyway. But we can be serious and worry on our journey or we can laugh and enjoy ourselves. It is our choice.  
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