October 30, 2014 posted by

Cancer: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Cancer: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

“Alright you idiot,” I said to myself. “You finally killed yourself.” This was during one of many stupid scenarios I’ve put myself in. Here I was  watching my entire body convulse, miles and thousands of vertical feet above help, in the days before cell phones, alone, with neither food nor water, all by my own silly design. Yet I was laughing because, c’mon, ironic funny is still funny, even if I was going to the grave.

No one is getting out of here alive. A lot of people boast differently, but so far those folks are batting zero. We don’t know how, we don’t know when, and try and we like we actually have little control over the end results so, to me, all that matters in life is how we live. Every damn day. So I get out there and do the things I want to do, as much as possible. We get one shot at it. We’d might as well have a little fun. That’s been my MO since I was a kid and nothing has managed to put a chink in it.

So I have cancer. Big deal? Am I supposed to all of a sudden get serious? From the looks of it most of us are going to have a brush with it sometime. And even though–it seems–that I’ve lived my life in a way that should be cancer averse, how do we know? Some of the healthiest, fittest people I know had cancer. Some of them died from it. What can you do? Life just happens. Roll with it. I’ve spent approximately zero seconds worrying about my death. All I think about is living, how I’ll benefit from my present experience, what I’ll do next, and how I can laugh at whatever ridiculous predicament’s that come my way.

People seem to be enjoying my blog posts and Facebook quips, most of which are laced with inside jokes and/or self deprecation. Most probably don’t get it but that’s fine, proper writing should work on more than one level. I appreciate those that do, like my friend, Joanne, who fired over  this article about Norman Cousins, who decades ago set a new template for fighting illnesses that shows how laughter can sometimes be, literally, the best medicine.

After suffering adverse reactions to most of the drugs he was given, Cousins decided, with the cooperation of his doctor, to take matters into his own hands. Recalling various accounts he had read about the power of positive emotions, and the value of vitamin C, Cousins checked out of the hospital and into a hotel, discontinued his medications except for intravenous injections of vitamin C, arranged for showings of laugh provoking films, and read humorous books. In time, he experienced a gradual withdrawal of symptoms and eventually regained most of his lost freedom of movement. Cousins’ account gave no evidence of a confirmed diagnosis, or that his fortunate recovery was any more than a normal resolution of his symptoms over time. Nevertheless, he reported receiving some 3,000 letters from doctors praising his decision to pursue self-treatment and supporting his mind over matter healing ideas.

The article is worth checking out. So is being happy. It seems to me that those who take life too seriously are having a joke played on them because they’re often too afraid of dying to live. Laughing is rad. I recommend that you engage in it, early and often.

I recall an article I read growing up by an Aussie who’d made it to the US to play football. He was trying to be funny but I thought it was an important statement. “In America, you worry about building a better atomic bomb. In Australia, we worry about building a better tasting beer. My question for y’all is why so serious?” No matter how important we think we are, we are merely pawns in the Universe, as the song says…

Besides, I like playing with beer much more than bombs.

Obviously I didn’t die on that day. After 30 minutes or so I could move without cramping. I crawled, then walked to a spring I knew about, which was all I needed to recover (it was a “sans water” challenge). Further down the trail I came across a woman who’d sprained or broken her ankle. She, too, was out alone, with few supplies and miles from help. If Lady Luck had dealt a different hand, we both might have died. Yet fate wasn’t a topic I recall discussing. Instead, as we slogged our way down in a three-legged race against quittin’ time at the Curry pizza joint, joking all the way. And we made it, with only minutes to spare, because when you laugh things always turn out better. And even if they don’t it’s okay,  you’re laughing.

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