In this episode of Cancer With Kevin, we explore the unexpected humor that comes with the general awfulness
Kevin Berry is an 13-year mantle cell lymphoma survivor, in his third remission. He works on Human Spaceflight programs, is a freelance writer and editor, and supports newly diagnosed patients through his ministry, Taking Vienna. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and adult children.
We all know, cancer sucks like a shop vac. Nobody wants it, everybody hates it and it’s a horrible, awful, no good disease. As a 12-year (so far) survivor, I’m as traumatized as anyone by my ordeal. Oddly, though, it turns out there’s a bright side to this whole business of fighting The Monster.
I found out early on, in the chemo rooms and radiation waiting areas, that cancer patients are the most joy-filled group I’ve ever met. Knowing what we face, we work so hard to present a happy, pleasant, upbeat face to each other. I’ve heard so many jokes, so much good-natured teasing, and so many self depreciating comments poking fun at our bald heads, scars, and side effects. Having a new understanding of what “bad” is, we also have an appreciation for how good, “good” is.
So in this post, I thought I’d share one of the lighter moments from my dozen years of hanging with the cancer crowd.
Back in 2006, during round ne of mantle cell lymphoma, I was going in weekly for blood work. One Tuesday, I was feeling like crud. My mouth felt like I'd burned it on hot coffee, except it included a taste so bad it made me sick to my stomach. Telling one of my favorite nurses about this, she said, "stick out your tongue." Then, "Have you eaten anything orange?" I said no. She said "hmmmm" and got another nurse. And another one. This was in a tiny chemo room, about 10 by 20 feet. It was packed full, with about six patients, plus families, plus four nurses. So, pretty darn quickly, my tongue had been examined by four nurses, the lab tech, the receptionist, seven little old ladies, four little old men, two doctors and a drug salesman.
Everyone except the salesman thought a bright orange, fuzzy tongue was kind of cool. He looked a little queasy, but since everyone else was looking, he thought, what the heck. (Drug sale reps don’t really like to talk to patients. They’d much rather talk to receptionists, office managers and that attractive nurse behind the desk.) Finally, I told the doc, "The words you NEVER want to hear from your car mechanic or cancer doctor are 'Hey, everybody, look at this!'" That cracked him up enough to tell me I had Thrush, which is common to babies and chemo patients. It's a fungal infection. But he'd never heard of orange, it’s usually white. So I spent a week with mouthwash, anti-fungal drugs and everything tasting like burnt paper mache. I figured my orange tongue was probably the feature topic in that year’s "weird cancer patients" seminar somewhere nice like Cancun.
In my Taking Vienna blog, for several months, I featured a Bad Cancer Joke section each month. Many of these, frankly, are only funny to the hardest core of patients, and I just can’t include them here. I do have a couple of “clean cancer jokes” that I’d like to share.
What do you call bugs with cancer? MalignANT and BEEnign.
What do you call a person who has a compulsion to get lymphoma over and over again? A lymphomaniac!
If you have your own favorite cancer joke, please post it on our site, to bring a smile to those who truly need one. Keep laughing, it’s good for the cure!