“Laughter is the best medicine — unless you’re diabetic, then insulin comes pretty high on the list.”
I love funny anything…movies, books, songs…but, especially, people. I have often gotten in trouble for being funny at the wrong times; which only increases the chance that I will be a snorting – wailing -crossing my legs – wiping away-the-tears mess in no time.
Heck, my 4th grade teacher moved my desk behind the piano because I was always laughing. She promptly moved it back out when I appeared to be having too much fun back there — no lie.
Girl Scouts was one of those places where I got the reputation as a “bad egg” because it seemed to bring out the worst urge to laugh in me. At the end of each meeting, we would all gather in a circle, cross arms, and hold hands. The leader would start to sway and we would begin singing, “Day is done…” I don’t remember anyone explaining why this was the closing, what it signified or why it should be solemn. I’m sure I knew what the expectations were…but try as I might, to me it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a belly laugh. As we swayed and sang, the leader would start a squeeze that was suppose to make its way around the circle and end with her. I would wait for her to start the squeeze and then naturally would start a squeeze in the opposite direction and…wait…wait….wait for it…(the anticipation would be killing me)…until the two squeezes would arrive at one poor unsuspecting soul at the same time. When that look came across her face…that “what do I do now” look would appear — I would lose it. I then would be asked to leave the circle until the final verse was sung. It was even funnier if someone near me lost it too…then our mirth was double.. and no amount of “talking to” after everyone else was excused could erase that thrill of busting a gut. And if I’m being honest, I laugh every time I tell this story and I chuckled writing it just now. So, there…..
At the ripe old age of 11, I was escorted out of a diner for laughing so hard chocolate milkshake squirted out my nose. As a teenager, I started a rip-roaring food fight in a sub shop with my friend Mary Beth — highlighted by the slap of ham hitting her cheek and sticking there and her chasing me to the juke box to smash a paper plate of sub-remains into my hair. As a young teacher, I was reprimanded by an administrator for staging an irreverent parody of the Jerry Springer Show to illustrate a teaching method at an educational workshop. I played Springer…and thought I was going to be struck dead with every withering look my humorless boss shot at me. But, I laughed until my sides hurt…
Some people drive fast, some people snort drugs — my “high” is laughing…and the more I try to squelch that addiction, the more it calls to me. It’s not a big scary expensive nor illicit monkey on my back, but this silly chimp certainly manages to get me through a day better than an opiate ever prescribed. And who knew? It’s actually considered a legitimate part of my treatment…or so says the American Cancer Society and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
And unlike radiation and surgery…it is something you CAN try at home.
According to the experts, humor or laughter therapy is considered a complimentary method to traditional radiation and chemotherapy for cancer patients. It reduces stress, stimulates the circulatory and immune systems, releases endorphins which can increase pain tolerance and also affects short term changes in hormones and neurotransmitters. In short, the American Cancer Society says humor (whether spontaneous or passive) and its resulting laughter “enhances the quality of life” for both patients and regular folks alike.
(Kinda makes you wonder why so many people then use social media to bitch about things that simply fuel their feelings of anger and frustration… like the crappy weather, or that “anti-American” Coke commercial, or their need to wrestle the constitution back from pinko liberals like me. Rather than railing at every imagined insult and liberal media conspiracy, why aren’t they instead telling jokes, sending Hallmark cards with those funny dogs — always cracks me up, or looping video clips of Melissa McCarthy outtakes or Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks?) Seriously, people….the American Cancer Society wants you to know such posts are detrimental to your health and diminishing the quality of your life!
A few years ago, I forgot to follow my own remedy and found myself backsliding into a funk…and rather than start medication, I opted to treat myself. Although none of the cancer experts suggest laughter therapy should replace conventional medicine, I ventured into the unorthodox laughter therapy waters. My self-prescribed treatment consisted of rising at an ungodly hour each day before work and watching two back-to-back episodes of The Office on Netflix. Now, I couldn’t measure the efficacy of this treatment by any scientific method and I didn’t have to submit coding to my insurance company, but I can report that after just a few minutes of watching and laughing, I felt better. Each “treatment” resulted in an improved attitude and a little bounce in my step; ready to face my day and be a productive force in the world. That, and two cups of coffee, helped me ride-out that particular blue period with a smile on my face.
Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been some “moments…” but every time I get a little down, riding in like the cavalry, come my best girl friends. Thick as thieves since middle school, our friendships have withstood the test of time and the chasm of distance. While I’ve been a guest at Hope Lodge, my friend Kim has driven the three hours from her home in Massachusetts to visit me twice. Each time, we have laughed ourselves silly over the most inane things — raising a few eyebrows and turning a few frowns “upside down” along the way. Like any self-respecting disease, laughter is contagious, and one young college student flashed us a toothy grin and commented that I had a great laugh as he passed the two of us cracking ourselves up. Not bad reviews for a cancer patient, right? (This might have occurred around the time I forcefully spit water in a not-so-dainty arch in an attempt to avoid choking on it or having it splash my good boots).
Just a few weeks ago, Kim and I were lucky to be the only people in the movie theater. We laughed and talked throughout the showing…as if we were in a very large and expensive viewing room that only Kardashians could own. When we exited, we headed for the bathroom…believing we were the only folks in there. The subject of Charles Nelson Reilly came up — my friend Normie does a killer impersonation and both Kim and I love Alex Baldwin’s SNL take on the late Match Game regular — and we, of course, started doing our best CNR laughs. We were amusing ourselves to no end when it appeared we were not alone….causing us to fall over ourselves trying to quickly exit the bathroom and get down the stairs first. Frankly, knowing our bladders, I’m surprised we didn’t have to make an emergency spit stop, as we Charles Nelson Reillied ourselves silly the entire 1.5 mile walk back to the Lodge. Uphill.
What a sight we must have been. Two middle-aged women in nice coats (mine is a brown Italian jobbie with just a hint of aubergine…but, I digress…) nearly peeing themselves, as they walk home on a dark, cold January night. People probably thought we were drunk, drugged, or crazy — or all three! But, that’s the point. We didn’t feel the cold. The dark didn’t give us a moment’s pause. And, for that moment anyway, we sure as hell didn’t feel like AARP members.
And cancer? Well, that was the farthest thing from my mind. Charles Nelson Reilly therapy has a way of doing that to you.
“In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”