Monday, October 28, 2013

Why I Laugh at Cancer

“Bright eyes give joy to the heart; good news strengthens the bones.”
Proverbs 15:30

            Some people just don’t get it. They cannot possibly understand my defiant, and
sometimes sarcastic, humor related to having cancer. There are reasons I laugh at my cancer. Don’t get me wrong; I would never laugh at another’s disease process, or another’s struggle. As I interact with my friends and acquaintances I’ve met since I’ve been diagnosed I strive to be supportive, understanding, and pastoral. I laugh at my cancer. I laugh at my cancer because it is how I hold off the fear that lingers in the shadows. It is how I rob it of its power to be my defining feature. I laugh at it because it allows me to continue fighting.

            I laugh at my cancer because it keeps the fear and worry at bay. It is always there, hiding in the shadows of my mind. The realization that I’m dying never really goes away. I’m keenly aware of every pain in my side, always wondering whether I’ll be racked with the pain that precipitated the discovery of my cancer. I am reminded every afternoon when, sometimes suddenly, I run out of energy and have to find a place to rest for an hour, or maybe two. Then I make jokes about it. I make jokes about being a two year old who has to take naps, or being a grumpy old man a little prematurely. I make jokes about dying and coming back to haunt people if they aren’t nice to me. I play the “cancer card” to get out of chores (my wife doesn’t buy it by the way) or to leave a meeting early. I laugh about it because to laugh at it takes the power out of it. I drain it of some of the fear, pain, and hurt that it brings into my life with my laughter.

            I laugh at my cancer because I refuse to let it be my defining feature. I am not cancer. It is so easy when you have a terminal illness to become your illness, and I refuse to let my illness define me. Part of how I keep that from happening is trying to be completely open about it and then laughing about it. My ability to admit it and then move past it keeps it from becoming an idol in my life. An idol is anything that has more power in your life than you give God. Anything that is not yielded to God is a god in and of itself. I laugh at my cancer because it could easily become an obsession. It could very easily become an idol that I attend to and give all of my attention to. Instead I make it the brunt of jokes. I seek to diminish its power with my laughter, and most days it works.

            I laugh to keep worry and fear at bay, I laugh to keep cancer from becoming my idol, but most of all I laugh because in the laughter I find the strength to keep fighting. There are days, a lot of days that I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. This damn cancer has disrupted my life. The hormones it secretes messes with my emotions. It randomly pains me. It causes me discomfort, especially when I am stressed. I have had to become incredibly self-aware to make sure I’m not getting irritable due to the fatigue. When I laugh, it gives me the strength to get up again. Vince Lombardi said once, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; its whether you get back up.” Laughing gives me the strength to get up, and when I get up, I get up swinging. Laughter gives me the ability to fight. It allows me not to just survive, but to choose to thrive.

            That is why I laugh. So if you are offended when I laugh at my cancer, get over it. I’m not asking you to understand, I’m just asking you to laugh with me. My prayer is that I laugh till the end, because “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Gracious God help me to laugh in the face of trial, and have joy in the midst of pain. God help me to laugh, in the name of the One who heals me and laughs with me in the face of death, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

I'd like to extend a special invitation to join us at St. Paul UMC, Rocky Mount, NC on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 for Neuroendocrine Awareness Sunday. The message will center on being thankful for the life you have. We worship at 10 am. Contact me for details at 

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