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« The Work I Loved to Live | Main | The Wish »
Wednesday
Jul102013

When Humor Heals

~ 2009 Email during my visit with my dearest dearest girlfriend during her chemotherapy treatments. ~

"To Our Circle of Friends,
After a pathetic attempt at cancer humor with our friend (which she has since forgiven me ) I couldn't stop thinking about how twisted this cancer experience can be at times.

It's ironic that around here, cancer humor abounds. Humor acts as a tool for all, perhaps a survival mechanism. The irony amazes me. We laugh throughout the day at the ridiculousness that is this disease. That that damn shot cost so much could have been a Burken Bag. That life is so much easier without hair. That 'mastectomy' means perky new boobs and a future in Playboy. "Please, nurse, can you just give my friend one more bag of fluid in her IV cuz I've got more editing to do".
Oh yes, and the silliness that her husband was relieved she didn't have bone cancer as well, cuz Lord knows her head is big enough already with all the attention! Yes, breast cancer was enough thank you very much.
The fact that she can't eat sugar because it causes cancer. I guess at $20,000 a day for chemo that's why they pass around a platter of sugar cookies from Ralph's bathed in Pepto Bismol Pink frosting with twitching pastel sprinkles.

The cancer center: We call it The Calico Palace: it looks like a geriatric brothel. With walls that match the frosting on the cookies, and birdhouses in the bathroom. Words are etched on the wall meant to inspire, such as:

PATIENCE: to get through 6 hours of IV listening to the patient next to you snore due to the overdose of Benadryl.

PEACE: reflected in the streaming Kenny G ensemble endlessly looping like a nail salon where everyone around you is named Kim or Tiffany.

HOPE: why hope? Isn't Cancer a disease you attack, fight? Tyson doesn't go in and hope to win. He goes in with guns blaring and eyes afire, claws are out and even takes an earlobe to rid the demon from the ring. This is how cancer should be fought. We don't "hope" she gets through this. We know. We believe. We trust. We assume. I want to reach up to that wall and scratch out Hope. Cancer needs a bigger word.

In addition to the said d├ęcor are 23 porcelain angels with feathered wings surrounding the ceiling on a ledge above the chemo chairs. Not the most comforting visual when the last thing you want to focus on is Heaven.
And then, there's the wig collection in the back of the room. A dozen manequin heads each dressed in perfect hair. I think we need to develop a messy wig. Nobody but a desperate housewife has perfect hair and even that ended by season 3. Then there's the Pepto-pink waiting room, that was decorated by one of the doctor's wives who evidently suffers from cataracts. Magenta boas act as a window valance dancing in the wind under an overhead fan. Instead of flowers on the mosaic coffee table made from shattered walmart tea cups, sits a fake birthday cake made out of fabric and pillowed candles.
Then there's Nurse Jackie with
the finesse of a bull with a pulled groin. It was she who opted to inform Lou of the "little spot that lit up on her hip bone during her scan" during her first round of chemo right after they plugged in the IV. That: not funny.

So life around here is never boring. And it IS life, filled with awareness of every little moment. Grasping every opportunity to undress the irony that snickers beneath. Perhaps this is because what is bad, is already so looming and unfathomable that each moment of humor is like a hatchet chipping away at a berg.
It is so like my friend to be in her position, yet be worried that others might worry. That any emotional burden is placed on anyone else due to her circumstance is a burden she carries in her heart. But she is re-framing her worries with a sense of humor as an energy source.

It is not going to be an easy road from here on out. Her system has been so pure and healthy that it is more sensitive now. This morning is a little better, however in a couple of hours we will venture once again to The Calico Palace for her $7000 injection to boost her white blood cells. With the cost of treatment she'll be sweating diamonds by the time chemo is done.

This is just the beginning of her journey, as I follow her down this path, her journey stays lit by the fire in friends' souls - breathing her forward.
In her eyes there's a glow, a knowing, that all is going to be fine. That The Calico Palace will be either a distant memory, or a launching pad when her porn career takes off and she's 80 years old doing book signings next to the mosaic coffee table with the fake birthday cake.
Stay strong sweet girls, as we hold her in our prayers, it's this circle which embraces and protects her.

Peace & Light,
N a snuggle to all...
Mic"

Follow-up: My friend is currently four years clear and cancer-free. Her courage and approach to healing helped lay the groundwork for my own personal challenge and the challenges our circle of girlfriends have all had to face over the years. Every day I pray to be half the woman she was during her treatments. Our friendship is one of the greatest blessings in my life. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Even to the angels with feathered wings that sit above a sign called, Hope.

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