Laughing at Cancer


‘Laughing at Cancer’ could almost be classed as an Oxymoron, or an example of one because there is nothing remotely funny about it at all. Let me make that abundantly clear.

My weekly visit to see my befriendee, Penny on Monday surprisingly resulted in us rolling around laughing, figuratively speaking – for Penny can barely walk unaided – about the vagaries of Cancer in the lives of those people around us. Those that are in the midst of fighting the deadly beast and their tales from the battlefield.

For a subject matter so dark and so despairing, leaving no gender, race or creed untouched it is the cause of untold misery for millions of people worldwide. For those that have it and those that have to watch family and friends suffer from it, so to find myself laughing with a woman who I discovered this week has herself battled Colon Cancer in the past, it was the unfunniest of subject matters. Or so we thought.

Let me start by telling you my Monday morning started really early, on the back of being up for a second night in a row with a poorly baby. I felt tired and my irritable state was compounded by a nasty friction burn i had sustained just below my left elbow when rescuing the same poorly baby at a children’s soft play centre a couple of days before. I had to climb like Jungle Jane to the highest point of the soft play centre and help her down a too small curly yellow slide that suddenly seemed too scary and in the process took most of the skin off my left arm on the way down. I’m not normally a wimp but this kept burning and hurting still days later.

When Sarah my cleaner arrived i was desperate for some coffee to get me moving. How’s your week been is my normal opener but Sarah pipped me to the question first. Just about to launch into my Monday story of woe with my bad sleep and sore arm story, I stopped myself and said ‘Coffee first’. She folllowed me into the Kitchen as i asked her the same question so i could get on with making the coffee. Thats when she told me her partner Phil, who had been in and out of hospital having treatment for kidney stones, had been told he was suffering from Blood Cancer.

That put my burn and tiredness into perspective, i told Penny later when i went to visit her. We laughed as i stroked my burn, as she recognised my awkwardness and almost terrible timing.

It was then that our conversation moved onto Cancer in general and how so many people we know are affected by it.

‘If i get Cancer i said, I just don’t want it in the bum’ i offered. Of all the places i reckon thats got to hurt the most i said’. Penny lent forward laughing, at the same time as her eyes closing to exaggerate how funny she found that to be, as she told me thats exactly where she had it some years ago. My dignity died the day i laid on the Oncologists couch she said.

She regaled me with her own tales from the Battlefield, fighting the big C which i’m sure time has allowed her to see the funny side of. She was prodded and poked and cleaned inside out. I left as clean as a whistle she sniggered. I do try to forget, she laughed some more.

I thought i had a rough time of it back then she went on, although the other week an old friend called to tell her that one of her family members had found a tumour on her neck and it had grown to an obvious and uncomfortable size. She had to go and have Chemotheraphy directly on the tumour, she was given a bespoke Metal Mask that pinned her head to a table where she had to sit for half an hour every day for 17 days. It didn’t help that the poor love had claustrophobia.

Horrified as she is telling me this, i self consciously want to laugh. My lips curl and i stifle it, but I want to laugh at the absurdity of the image in my mind. Almost as though Penny can read my thoughts, she said the same. I put the phone down and couldn’t stop laughing. I just can’t stop picturing her with her head pinned to a table inside a metal mask as her body rocked within from her phobia of confined spaces. How unlucky can one poor soul be ?!

Now in print, this doesn’t seem that funny and as I’m relaying the story to you i’m worried i am offending all those with bowel cancer and neck tumours and all they have to endure, but through our laughter Penny and I came to the landing that, with most horrific things that beset you, the only thing you can do in the face of Cancer, the only thing you possibly can do to endure the pain of it being and not let it rob you of the ability to try and find humour to laugh at Cancer.






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