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HOL-emblem Humor Therapy

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Humor and Cancer

Many of us feel awkward in joking in front of terminally ill patients. Many may even consider it inappropriate or insensitive. However, it has been known scientifically that the best thing you can do to your friends is to provide a humorous environment and let them "forget" about their condition. Sitting and feeling sorry for their condition will not help them much.

Dr. Michael B. Van Scoy-Morsher, an oncologist in California says that "one characteristic of the cancer patient who does well is the ability to often put cancer in the background for periods of time."  

TV journalist Linda Ellerbee wrote about some of her cancer experiences and of being bald in the January 1993 edition of McCall's :

That summer I bought some breast prostheses to use while swimming. Instead of fastening them to my skin with Velcro as the directions instructed, I simply inserted the prostheses into my bathing suit. When I came out of the water, one had migrated around to my back! Now, how can you not laugh at such a thing? Either you laugh or you cry your eyes out. . . . It's something I've tried to teach my kids as well. When my 23-year-old daughter saw me with my bald head and no breast, she said, "You look just like a Buddha without the wisdom," and we both howled. I think we are never braver than when we stand tall and look into the sun and laugh. Laughter may be a form of courage.

In his book "Intoxicated by My Illness," Anatole Broyard wrote about the final months of his life after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He stated that "Illness is primarily a drama, and it should be possible to enjoy it as well as to suffer it. . . . . Illness," after all, "is not all tragedy. Much of it is funny."

Next: Humor: How Does It Work?

 

(adapted from The Courage to Laugh (Tarcher/Putnam) by Allen Klein, 1998)

 

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