‘Fun’ and ‘Cancer’ Can Go Together


A prostate cancer survivor recalls a time when the cancer center’s staff helped him realize that its OK to have fun while receiving cancer treatment.

Is it possible to use the word “cancer” in the same sentence as “fun?” When it came to my radiation treatment for prostate cancer, the answer was a hilarious “yes!”

In 2015, a worrisome recurrence brought me to the radiation center for eight weeks of treatment, five minutes a day Monday through Friday. My PSA numbers had spiked only six months after my prostate was removed and I was facing a formidable foe: an aggressive stage 3 cancer.

I hoped beyond hope that the center’s technicians and oncologists could help me bring my numbers down and do it professionally and courteously. Fun times did not enter my brain at all.

Is That a Celebrity?

During Halloween week, the back door of the center swung open and in walked a man who bore a striking resemblance to Richard Simmons. It sure looked like the workout king, with the curly hair and boxer shorts, the whole works. The only difference was that this “Richard Simmons” carried a briefcase. Turns out, he was one of the oncologists who wanted to be in on the fun.

There were a few more surprises in store for me that day. All the technicians were dressed up. One was costumed as a hot dog, standing next to her colleague, who was a bottle of ketchup. I asked them if we were going to a picnic that morning and we all chuckled. Then, another character made her appearance, wearing a get-up as a Google map.

“Can you get me to the airport from here?” I asked her playfully.

Hold still, please!

They all had me in stitches by the time the huge machine started humming and buzzing and sending beams into me, fitted snugly in a body cast so that none of the cancer-killing energy would miss the mark. I had to suppress some belly laughs to remain perfectly still and get a proper treatment.

Throughout my treatments, the technicians offered me a slice of cake or some cookies left there as gestures of gratitude from the other patients. The staff was cheerful without fail.

When I finished treatment just before Christmas Day, I penned a poem and sent it to the staff, harkening back to Halloween week and their humorous shenanigans.

A Thank-you to the Staff

It’s Halloween, you see

And all the radiation staff

Are costumed for our pleasure

What a true treasure!

Cookies and smiles

Country music too

You never know

What this crew will do!

Radiation is serious biz

A lot is at stake

But this silly bunch

Really takes the cake!

I’ll never forget their playfulness and fun-loving approach to their profession. Cancer is serious business, but they taught me you don’t always have to take yourself so seriously!

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