Tag Archive | cancer humor

Guest Post

Hi!  Wednesday is the day that I take a break from blogging and hand over the lime light to one of my favourite bloggers.  This week I am happy to introduce you to Candida:

Candida Abrahamson, Ph.D.,  is a mediator, life coach and counselor, both in her native Chicago, and nation-wide, via the medium of the phone session. She does family and couples therapy, grief and cancer counseling, and works on coaching clients with life management skills.  In addition to hypnotherapy, she also mediates for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce. She likes to blog on topics from my practice, with a hint of wit thrown in, like mediation, cancer counseling, blended families, mood disorders, and more.  Candida blogs at:  www.candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com

Here is Candida’s take on humor:


“Nobody Ever Died Of Laughter”: In Fact, Mr. Beerbohm, It Might Just Keep Them Alive

“A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.” ~Groucho Marx

In a family of total characters and would-be comedians, I can find it hard to hold my own in the humor department. When the rest of the crowd gets going, I usually serve in the requisite role that I’ve deemed the “humor-appreciator.” And, really, someone must play this role in order for my beloved performers to feel truly adored.

So I’m not the biggest innovator, it’s true. But I truly value humor. And apparently that’s not just good enough for my family–it might be good enough to keep me healthy and well, and, if some studies hold true, alive longer.

Apparently, you see, my appreciation of the fine art of humor strengthens my immune system, and protects me from illness (which must be true, now that I think about it, since every time my 2-year-old granddaughter comes over she’s sneezing and hacking and snotting, mostly all over me, but sometimes, if her direction changes, right into my food, and I’m still alive and kicking, despite her best efforts).

Turns out that multiple studies have demonstrated that subjects watching a humorous video have actual increases in their salivary and blood (ready for this science term? Deep breath) immunoglobin A. Called IgA by her friends, for short, this particular immunoglobin A is part of the immune system and particularly protects you against colds and the flu [apparently my granddaughter is currently missing her IgA, and I’d like to file a complaint with the immunoglobin department]. IgA is found in what people with class call your ‘saliva’ (my family refers to it as ‘spit’), and is the first line of defense against respiratory viral and bacterial infections.

So humor-appreciators are healthier. All the better, especially if they have grandchildren in stealth campaigns to bring them to their knees. But that’s not really enough for people like us, who cheerfully guffaw when others go into entertainment mode–we deserve more.

In fact, why shouldn’t our senses of humor keep us alive longer, while we’re at it?

Well, our wish is science’s command–three cheers for humor and better mortality rates. A study of Norwegians (from the county of Nord-Trøndelag, no less) published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine entitledA 7-year prospective study of sense of humor and mortality in an adult county population: The HUNT-2 study” found that being able to appreciate what’s funny in life actually reduced mortality by about 20% for people with the highest “humor-appreciation” ability compared to those with the lowest scores. Additionally those with highest scores were twice as likely to survive the 7-year follow-up period, once again as compared to those with the lowest scores.

Clearly there has to be some objective scale to measure humor, as merely appreciating bathroom jokes won’t necessarily keep you around forever.

(This study’s author’s name, by the way, is Sven Sveback. Would anyone ever guess that he’s Norwegian?) Sveback divided sense of humor into three dimensions: 1) The cognitive – the ability to understand humor; 2) The social – the ability to get along with people who are funny; and 3) The affective – a person’s predilection for smiling and laughing. He failed to accurately identify the fourth dimension, finding my son and daughter truly hilarious, but I don’t think that de-legitimizes his study completely.

Of particular interest, given this thread of posts on cancer, is the author’s findings regarding humor and cancer. A subgroup of subjects with cancer diagnoses demonstrated the powerful effect of humor as well. In that subgroup of 2,015 people, those with the best sense of humor cut their chances of death–according to the study’s structure–by about 70% when compared with those who scored at the bottom of the humor-appreciation scale.

Additionally, several studies have even determined that natural killer cell activity (killer cells are lymphocytes that play a major role in the rejection of tumors) was significantly increased in subjects after they watched a humorous video (see Bennett below). [See Billy Crystal at the Oscars and fight your tumor at the same time!]

Humor helps other chronic illnesses also, for those whose immune systems didn’t withstand the assault of disease. Just as one example, an analysis of 46 patients with COPD found a signficant correlation between sense of humor and psychological functioning and better quality of life. But beyond that, researchers discovered that a higher humor score was also correlated with fewer recent sick days taken (see Lebowitz below). AIDS patients, too, appear to benefit. Humor and laughter have been shown to increase both the number and level of activation of helper T-cells, which are the immune cells attacked by the AIDS virus (see McGhee).

But wait! There’s more! A good sense of humor can increase your tolerance for pain overall. Several studies demonstrated that listening to or watching funny tapes increases the length of time subjects could endure having their hands in ice water before they experienced discomfort–both adults and children. Additionally, one study found that children watching cartoons were better able to tolerate the pain experienced during hydrotherapy for their burns (not a pleasant experience under any circumstances).

And–the piece-de-le-resistance, as the psuedo-French say– a sense of humor just seems to make the life you do live–pain- and illness-free or not–all that much better. Higher sense of humor scores were correlated with lower levels of depression and loneliness and higher levels of self-esteem. And they were also associated with higher scores on quality of life (see both Kuiper articles). In the studies, individuals with “a higher frequency of laughter did not show greater levels of negative affect as stressful life events increased.” Things just roll of the backs of these people more, and the inevitable stresses and strains of life simply don’t get them down in the same way that they would the local Grinch.

Appears there’s no two ways around it–people generally live better, healthier, longer lives when they can appreciate and laugh at humor. They might even be able to survive the germ onslaught of my granddaughter without being brought to their knees (although that’s going some).

So make time for humor, and make time to laugh.

And if you’re not sure how to go about it, how to tickle your funny bone, so to speak–my kids are always looking for an audience. Sometimes just one laughing mom isn’t enough to satisfy the aspirations of frustrated comedians.


Perk # 48: Cancer Shook Up My New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year

Well, it is that time of year again, time to take stock of our weaknesses and vices and vow that THIS year is going to be different!   My New Year’s resolutions, like most people’s, have been pretty standard:

A Exercise more/ get in shape

B Eat healthier

C Drink less

D All of the above

Boooorrrring!  Even though I don’t actually smoke, sometimes I will add “Quit smoking”,  because I’m pretty sure that is one I can really commit to.   Come March when all of the other ideals have fallen by the wayside, and my friends are moaning about breaking their New Year’s resolutions, at least I can say, “I haven’t had a smoke so far this year!”

For the first time in my life, I am starting a new year with cancer.  The perk is, after twenty or more years of broken resolutions, I know that THIS is the year I will honour them.  Here they are:

A Stay alive (that encompasses all of the old resolutions regarding eating, drinking and exercising)

How can I be sure that I will really do it this year?  Well, just imagine that your resolution is to be able to run a mile.  But it is hard to train for that because, you know, you get your period, your knees hurt, it rains, and so on, rendering it impossible to stick to your goal.   Then one day, you are walking in the woods and suddenly a bear pops up behind you.  Voila!  The adrenaline kicks in and you run a mile back to your car.  Well, cancer is that bear, and I am running for my life, so I’m pretty sure I will do it this time.

Just in case it doesn’t work out, I would like to add:

B Quit smoking.

Tip:  Cancer is a great wake up call! You have to treat your body like a temple.  Even if you are like me and have been living a “healthy-ish” lifestyle, there is always room for improvement.

Perk # 45: Say Good-Bye To Bad Hair Days

It may be close to Christmas, but you would never say it with the weather we had yesterday.  I dreaded going out into the heavy rain and wind  to run my errands, but alas I had hungry mouths to feed.   As I sprinted in to the grocery store, I couldn’t help but notice how many hair-do’s had gone awry in the bad weather.  There were flat do’s, frizzy do’s, and sticking-out-at-weird-angles-do’s.  I  smugly grinned to myself, thinking how super sleek my hair still looks despite the weather. You see,  I have the advantage of being able to leave my hair at home on bad days, and wear a stylish hat instead.

Tip:  If chemo has robbed you of your hair, buy yourself a good selection of hats and caps  and leave the wig at home when the weather is bad.


Perk # 35: I Get To Escape Dish Duty

While I love big family dinners, I hate the clean up afterwards.  I hate it so much, in fact, that I have earned myself the nickname “Eat and Run”.   I don’t pride myself on being inflicted with the Dine and Dash Syndrome, but when that turkey coma kicks in, I fall a victim.  As I shamefacedly slept off those extra calories, I am sure remarks were being made behind my back about my dirty dish avoidance.  But that was before cancer.  Even when I half heartedly offer to help with the dishes now, I just get shooed away to a welcoming couch.  I almost felt sorry for my sister, Sherry last Sunday when she hinted about her hysterectomy in an attempt to escape dish duty.  But hey, it’s been seven weeks, she has milked that baby for all it was worth!  Now me on the other hand, I can probably get another year out of this if I play my cards right.  Ahhh, I can’t wait for Christmas Dinner at Mom’s.

Tip:  If you have cancer, you have a ready- made excuse to avoid dish duty.

Perk # 31: Cancer Made Me Appreciate My Pooch

Florence and Patches, post chemo

My dog loving friends, Lil, V, Nat, and Oprah (OK, she is not my friend YET, but let’s keep that door open!)  will be mortified to hear that I have fantasized about killing my dog, Patches.  Just last night, for example, she woke me from a sound sleep with a shrill whine and the clickity-clack of her sharp nails tap dancing across my laminate floor.  I faked I was asleep for as long as possible, but soon realized I was not going to get any rest until I let her out to pee.  At this point in my story I should stop myself and send a sincere apology to my neighbours, Keith and Cora Lee, in case they looked out at 2 a.m and saw a bald woman, clad only in her underwear (chemo causes early menopause and severe hot flashes….) yelling “Hurry up and pee would ya!”  But I digress……Patches has proven herself to be a faithful and loving companion through my journey with cancer.  She never leaves my side.  As I am fading in and out of consciousness post-chemo, I can always count on seeing her furry face, black lips and big brown eyes looking at me when I open my eyes.  She has been with me for nearly ten years, but this is the first time I have truly enjoyed her company.  Too bad it took getting cancer to make me really appreciate her.

Tip:   If you are battling cancer, this might not be the best time to get a new pet.  But if you already have one, nourish the relationship with your furry friend.

Perk # 26: Cancer Gave Me My 15 Minutes Of Fame

Me with my biggest fan, my mom.

I have heard it said that during a lifetime, everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame.  I guess you can say that  cancer has given me MY 15 minutes of fame.  The number of visitors to my blog is far beyond my expectations, and I have even been recognized in public.  I am very grateful to those who read my blog, for the positive comments, and especially the shares.  While yesterday was a very rough chemo day for me, I was completely buzzed on the positive comments, and counting the hits on my blog.   (For my Newfie friends, it felt almost as exciting as watching the Julie and Clyde election numbers.)

Tip:  Just because you have a potentially life threatening illness does not mean you have to lie down and die.  New doors can open for you at any time in your life!

Perk # 20: I Don’t Have To Worry About My Guests Finding A Hair In The Food I Prepared

Yesterday, while preparing dinner for a few friends, I instinctively reached for my apron and hair net…..then I laughed.  Getting a hair in the food I am preparing is one less thing I have to worry about.  And if someone happens to find one, I can convincingly say “Hey, it’s not mine!”

Tip:  This may be but a small perk, but it was enough to make me laugh.  It is good to appreciate the humor in situations such as this.