This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.
One Year and Laughing,
November 23, 2000
Today marks the first anniversary of the day I was told that I have cancer.
Coincidentally, it also happens to be Thanksgiving.
I knew that I had to write something for the occasion, but I didn't know what to say. I read some messages to the lists from people who were giving thanks but I wasn't in the mood to do that. Caren asked me earlier how I felt about today.
I didn't understand what she meant.
About it being the anniversary, she said. Are you sad or what?
I thought about it. No, not sad. Not particularly happy. I'm just very aware that it has been a full year.
And a long year at that.
I just went back and read the entry from that day. I'm glad I wrote it because even with the words to remind me how I felt, it is difficult to conjure up the feelings of that day, and the days that followed. I didn't know what it all meant and there was no way to tell where it would go. There were times in the months that followed that I didn't think I would live out the year. That was when I measured my life in terms of quantity, wondering if I would live a month or a year, rather than quality.
So I spent most of today at my keyboard, while Caren makes the dinner. She would call me occasionally to help, as the house filled with the aromas of a spectacular meal. She's such a great cook.
Then I would return to my keyboard.
I ended up prowling the Web for pieces on cancer humor. I don't know what prompted me to do it but I think it became a fitting way to spend my anniversary, finding essays and sites about laughing at cancer. It's not for everyone but I have been planning to put up a section about cancer humor.
I remember the first time I laughed at the disease. It was maybe six months ago. It involved a wallet with a "lifetime guarantee" and I suddenly had the urge to ask the clerk if he had anything that would last longer than a year and the whole idea made me laugh so very hard. I told Caren about it, wondering if I was being irreverent or in bad taste. Then she laughed too and I knew that I had moved to a very new and a very important part of my journey. I could laugh at the beast that wanted to kill me.
I also remember the first time that I ever wrote a joke.
I've always wondered where jokes came from. Do people really sit down and think these up? Well, one day, it came to me. The only catch is that you have to know about the effects of hormonal therapy (HT), the sort that I was put on. Here it is:
A man is diagnosed with advanced cancer.
"What can be done?" he asked apprehensively.
"Well," the doctor said, "the only real treatment is hormonal therapy."
"Okay," the man said hesitantly. "Are there any side-effects?"
"Some," the doctor said. "You'll have a loss of sex drive. You will probably get hot flashes. And when you are lost, you will have this uncontrollable urge to ask for directions."
As I said, you have to know HT to get the humor, not to mention have a sense of humor.
After I wrote the joke, I posted it to some list and sent it to a couple of friends. About two hours later, one of them who subscribes to a list for humor for cancer patients said my joke had just appeared there, posted by someone who was taking the credit for it.
So much for joke writing and copyright. I'm sure there is moral there, if not another punch line.
But I will make a section on "cancer humor." I've already found some Web sites where others make fun of their condition and the disease and some essays and even some comics who include cancer in their routines.
Yes, it is a good way to spend a day that is not only my anniversary but Thanksgiving, getting a few more laughs. I'll have to write about the subject some time because I feel very strongly that the ability to laugh at the condition is - if nothing else - a crucial reflection or mark of one's state of mind.
Maybe that is something for me to be thankful for, that I can laugh at it, that I can find humor in remarks that would normally have a dark side to them. I'll have to see if I can remember more of them for there have actually been many and Caren has been around for most.
It also reminded me that humor was actually one of my first loves, when it came to writing and even performing. My first published pieces were tongue-in-cheek pieces for my junior high school newspaper. It is nice to return to such an early love. Funny that it should be cancer that allows/prompts me to do it. Funny indeed.
I suppose I should be more reverent on a day like this, given the doubled significance. But it's just not my style.
I'd rather have a good laugh.
[Eight months later, a humor section was finally started at Phoenix5.]