Thinking Outside Cancer's Box


Cancer is a serious business. But who said it needs to be a business of seriousness?

I learned a great lesson from my first wife who was diagnosed with and ultimately died of stage 4 ovarian cancer. She was a professional belly dancer among other things, and her love of Middle Eastern dance was a driving force in her life. After her diagnosis and in-between some rigorous chemotherapy treatments that she was destined to endure for several years, she came up with the idea of thanking her oncologist with a surprise performance in his office. Her nurses alerted the local television station and a news crew was sent to follow her on the day of her special delivery. Imagine a beautiful dancer, resplendent in her silk and sequins, undulating to a three-piece band, and totally bald as a result of her chemotherapy treatments. It was an amazing scene, and an occasion that was celebrated with hope and happiness by everyone who was lucky enough to be there.

This was a spontaneous example of how we can grab cancer by the horns and turn a difficult time into a positive experience.

Most of us know all too well that there are days when cancer takes the spotlight, dimming our hopes and threatening our future. It's a mixed bag, this cancer disease, and sometimes we just want to take a quiet break from all of the stress that can accompany our quest to survive.

Cancer is a serious business. But who said it needs to be a business of seriousness?

One of the best ways to give cancer a good kick in the backside is to defy its intensity and laugh in its face. We see it all the time — people with goofy t-shirts and men wearing pink skirts and bumper stickers that tell cancer to take a hike.

Wherever and whenever we can find a way to disarm our disease with something offbeat and unconventional, we put ourselves in the driver's seat and decrease the velocity of cancer, if only for a moment.

My own method of coping with my disease consists of writing music that questions cancer's validity in my life as a male breast cancer survivor. I wrote a comedy tune the week of my mastectomy surgery called "What Good is a Breast?" that made me laugh, and according to the folks who listened on YouTube, it generated a few smiles for some others as well. And my life as a stage magician prompted me to create some illusions that focused on breast cancer in my shows. But these are the things that are familiar to me.

How can you find a way to challenge your cancer?

Thinking outside the cancer box only requires that you actually think less about your disease for a moment and allow your heart to overtake your head. Permit yourself to get a little crazy now and then, and you just might be amazed at how long you can go without being reminded that you are a cancer survivor.

We have plenty of darkness with our disease. So, our ability to lighten up a little is good medicine, and no matter how outrageous it may seem, it's a great way to jump up and outside of that cancer box.

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