At the beginning stages of my cancer diagnosis I met a woman who told me that when she was given her chemo treatments she watched comedy movies. Internally I thought, “Really?! I’m fighting for my life here!” What I did end up doing during my treatments is watch cable TV shows that I did not get at home. It was my time to zone out and be distracted from reality. It served the same purpose of escapism as watching comedy movies, just a different method.
One of the advantages I have now is hindsight, and as a holistic health coach, I very much want to share “what I wish I knew then” with others who are now in the trenches. One thing I wish someone would have imparted with me is that it is OKAY to laugh and have cancer. Now maybe you’re thinking, that women tried to tell you that. The fact is, in the beginning of a diagnosis (any major diagnosis) you are bombarded with information and in a fog. As time goes by you forget bits of information, or you are consumed with whatever you are dealing with in that moment, or you are too stressed to have your thoughts go to laughter. I wish I would have had someone send me a joke or funny video during the process to give me pause and remind me to laugh. My method of zoning out during treatments did serve it’s purpose of allowing me to escape, however, laughter’s benefits go a step further. What I have learned is laughter is essential to anyone’s health, and it has a great positive impact on reducing stress levels. I think sometimes people also may have an unfounded thought that it would be inappropriate to express laughter during such a challenging time, but I want to encourage the opposite. Providing yourself with the opportunity to laugh amidst cancer will reduce your stress level, which in turn aids your immune system. I’m not going to go into the biochemistry of it, but if you think about, you laugh about something, and you feel better. Isn’t that proof enough that it’s a good thing.
This very topic came up yesterday when I participated in round table discussions at the Breast Cancer Education Association’s annual conference. One women in particular appeared to have a light bulb moment when I said that laughter and cancer can go hand in hand. We then talked about options to provide some laughter, stress relief and bring joy into a difficult situation. As a holistic health coach I strive to step into people’s lives and provide them with ideas for the challenges they are facing, such as strategies for stress relief.
So although laughter and cancer appear to be an oxymoron, I prescribe laughter to be a part of each day, for anyone. Maybe it’s a full length comedy, or a sit-com, or even just a five-minute video, whatever makes you smile and laugh will have advantages for you, both emotionally and physically.