One man discovered that his experience with testicular cancer inspired jokes he could share with others.
“My doctor told me that cancer treatment will add years to my life. After my first week of chemotherapy, I feel older already.”
Mark Kantrowitz knew there was nothing funny about receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer two weeks after the birth of his son. But he believed in the healing power of laughter, and the passage of nearly 20 years hasn’t changed that. Hence, his latest book: “Tumor Humor: Cancer Jokes and Anecdotes,” published this year by Cerebly, Inc.
Kantrowitz started writing cancer jokes and posting them to his website while he was in treatment for the disease in 2003. Since then, the collection has grown. Some are corny puns that fall into the “dad joke” category. Others are more risqué. Kantrowitz advises those who are easily offended not to read his quips but hopes that, for most, they will help dispel stress and depression.
“Beware,” he writes, “cancer jokes are contagious.”
The 143-page book is set up in chapters. Having a bad experience in the infusion room? Read jokes about chemotherapy. Worried about your next needle stick? Read jokes about IVs and blood draws. The book includes silliness about nausea, dietary restrictions, hair loss, paperwork, money, oncology nurses, specific cancer types and more.
Along the way, Kantrowitz shares pieces of his own journey, which inspired much of the humor, and the text is punctuated with occasional cartoons by Jerry King. Kantrowitz discusses being strapped in for scans that lasted hours, receiving test results, living with chemotherapy’s side effects, and enduring hospital parking problems and the things people say.
“One time I was talking to a young man about my cancer experience and he exclaimed, ‘Did you survive?’ to which I replied, ‘Well, I am standing here talking to you, aren’t I?’” Kantrowitz recalls in the book.
He adds that, “One acquaintance said, ‘Good luck on your double vasectomy.’ I think they meant to say mastectomy, but I was having an orchiectomy. I was having my testicle removed, not my breasts. Seriously, dude.”
Kantrowitz also gives “helpful” advice to those with cancer who want to pull pranks on their caregivers, such as using a green glow stick to make it look like they’re radioactive after radiation therapy; eating beets, blackberries or asparagus to change the color of urine; and even convincing someone a glass of apple juice is a urine sample and then drinking it.
The book is a good place to turn for a giggle, even when your situation doesn’t seem to call for humor. “It can take your mind off the cancer,” Kantrowitz says, “at least for a little while.”
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