Humour plays a very big part in my personality, and always has done. I have always been able to see the funny side of most situations, even if sometimes there doesn’t appear to be one! In my life before cancer, it certainly helped me with my work, as everyone remembered me as ‘that funny guy’ and in a very competitive industry, it seemed to give me an edge.
When I started coming to hospital, I was aware that things were going to be very different to what they had been, in many ways! I was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms, doctors offices, and the chemo ward.How was this going to affect my personality? Was I going to lose my sense of humour and get depressed?
Ironically, that was one of my biggest concerns, not so much my schedule of treatment! What is there to smile about in a room full of people who are very unwell, having very toxic treatment? I approached my first chemo session very quietly and cautiously, after all I was the new boy in town! My idea, was to watch and learn how other patients were dealing with things. It was relatively quiet, some people reading, listening to music, or quietly chatting with friends. Others just sitting there on there own in quiet contemplation.
Unfortunately Terry passed away, and his wife asked me to come to his service of celebration. Everyone had to wear bright colours to reflect his personality. After the service, his wife thanked me for coming and she told me of one of the last things that Terry had mentioned. He talked about how ill he was, and as he was a religious guy, he talked about going to Heaven. He then told his wife, that in the nicest way, he hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I joined him there so that we could continue our fun!!
That is when I truly understood the power of humour in a cancer environment.I do appreciate that it is not for everyone, and not for every occasion, and I am always very aware of people I don’t know, in case it is not for them, but sometimes some serious things might just seem not quite so bad, with a little added humour.
I know that sometimes it is difficult to find a smile at times, even I struggle on certain days, but I have found that humour is what gets me through. It has been my defence for tricky situations and has always served me well.It is not rehearsed or learned, some of us have it, and some don’t, but don’t we look at life differently if we are laughing?
Research Supporting Laughter Therapy
A growing body of research supports the theory that laughter may have therapeutic value.
For years, the use of humor has been used in medicine. Surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century. Later, in the 20th century, came the scientific study of the effect of humor on physical wellness. Many credit this to Norman Cousins. After years of prolonged pain from a serious illness, Cousins claims to have cured himself with a self-invented regimen of laughter and vitamins. In his 1979 book Anatomy of an Illness, Cousins describes how watching comedic movies helped him recover.
Over the years, researchers have conducted studies to explore the impact of laughter on health. After evaluating participants before and after a humorous event (i.e., a comedy video), studies have revealed that episodes of laughter helped to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system in participants.
Today more than ever before, people are turning to humor for therapy and healing. Medical journals have acknowledged that laughter therapy can help improve quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Many hospitals now offer laughter therapy programs as a complementary treatment to illness
Do you agree? Do you use humour in a similar way? What helps you cope? It would be great to hear from you.