Voices

Heal, Fall 2007, Volume 1, Issue 2

Heal asked readers to tell us about the first time they laughed about something related to their cancer.

Not long after my breast cancer diagnosis, I called my health care plan. Even though I didn’t think I wanted reconstruction, researching it was a distraction from my fear I would not live long enough to raise my two children.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m calling to see if you cover plastic surgery after a mastectomy."

“What do you mean, plastic surgery after a vasectomy?” a female voice replied.

I gulped and tried again. “Does my insurance cover reconstruction after a mastectomy?

“You mean you want to reverse a vasectomy?” she asked.

“No, no,” I said. “I have breast cancer. I am going to have a breast removed. Will the insurance cover reconstruction of a new breast?”

“Oh,” she said, “Of course, of course.”

I hung up the phone and sat there, stunned. Then, I laughed. This cancer journey is going to have some absurd moments, I thought.

Now, I go around one-breasted, my children are in college, and I am grateful to still be laughing.

— Pamela Roberts, 14-year breast cancer survivor

After surgery, my PSA [prostate-specific antigen] levels were not good so I got scheduled for radiation. I went to get my setup geometry and the mold made to hold my position.

They stripped me naked, threw a paper sheet over me, and slapped me on the CT table. Then a drop-dead gorgeous lady came in and said she was going to tattoo me. I asked for a butterfly, but she only did dots.

I then went to the place of radiation for them to set up the machine, still apprehensive and nervous. I asked the lady in charge of me, who was about the age of my children, “You’re not going to get kinky with me like the girl at the other place, are you?”

That got me a slightly wicked smile and a “Depends on what you are willing to pay.”

— Robert A. Sega, prostate cancer survivor

It was halfway through my chemo treatments, after another hospitalization. A close friend had brought supper in a plastic container. My husband was going to heat it in the plastic container when I stopped him. “You can’t heat it in plastic — you have to put it in one of the Corningware containers — otherwise I might get cancer.”

— Anne Rogers, one-year follicular lymphoma survivor

When you are diagnosed with cancer, all sorts of thoughts take over. It was hard for my husband and I to communicate our thoughts and fears during those first few months. I was distraught about my husband finding someone to replace me when I died.

I said, “Honey, I know that you will need to find a companion after I’m gone. I’m OK with that. You just can’t have her picked out before I’m gone.”

— Carol Spisak, 10-year chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor

My girlfriend Catherine and I went to a cat show. After spending two hours there, we were exhausted, tired and hungry, so we decided to stop off and get a slice of pizza for me and soup for her and to walk to her apartment.

After a walk-up of three flights, I was sweating and my head was itchy.

When we arrived at Catherine’s apartment and spread out the food on the table, I said to her, “Do you mind if I take off my wig?”

And she said, “No, of course not — do you mind if I take out my teeth?” I thought I had problems, but boy, did I stop complaining after that!

— Gloria Gentile, seven-year breast cancer survivor

Heal asked readers to tell us about the first time they laughed about something related to their cancer.