Growing up, I had no cause for laughter, trapped in a world where evil lived just around the corner, waiting, watching.
This need for the serious followed me into adulthood, when I discovered that in that one moment when you weren’t looking over your shoulder, your entire world can come crashing down.
At 19 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was an early stage yet, that didn’t prevent two years of surgeries and doctor’s appointments. My mother told me from the beginning, “We’ll get through this together,” but her tears contradicted such confidence.
Being surrounded by fear, it was difficult to see the brighter side of things. I could deal with cancer. I could deal with the hospital. I could even deal with the concept of death. What I couldn’t deal with, was the fact that death may be the result of that one moment when I stopped looking over my shoulder.
We’ve all heard of the cause of cervical cancer, and the vaccine. Unfortunately, that meant that in the course of two years my family subjected me to lecture after lecture on the importance of safe sex, and that abstinence is always the safest way to go.
Yet what I never told them, was that I never had the choice of saying ‘no.’
With such anger and determination to kick death in the face, I fought to find a way to deal with my emotions and still be able to live. On the day of my first procedure I laid down on the exam bed and found myself staring at a ceiling plastered with the hottest of Hollywood men with a sign that read, ‘Relax!’ Unexpectedly, I started to laugh, and that feeling lasted the entire time of the painful procedure.
I had discovered my way to cope.
The day of the surgery I had an IV in one arm and the other clutching a blanket as I tried not to shiver in the freezing hospital. My parents came to see me just after the nurse gave me something that warmed up every last inch of me.
“You gotta try some of this stuff,” I said. “Maybe I should hope for another surgery, get me some more of this.” I then proceeded to get into a brief argument with my mother in which she defended herself against being a worry-wart with big clown-feet, something that kept us laughing until I was brought down the hall.
When I woke up and saw my doctor, the first thing I said to her was, “So Doc, am I still dying?” This became the question I asked at every post-op appointment.
Most people never understood my somewhat morbid sense of humor. My mother joined right in. On my 20th birthday she sent me a card with a very grumpy cat on the front, with a message that read, ‘Getting older is about as much fun…as getting fixed!’
I’d had a doctor’s appointment earlier that day, and was depressed because my results were not looking good. That card with its own morbid play-on-words made me realize just how much I believe in the power of acceptance, because with acceptance, came laughter. With laughter, I was able to finally start healing.
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