A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Chemo

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

Visitors to the Cancer Resource Center are sometimes startled to hear uproarious laughter coming from behind doors. When the visitor raises a questioning eyebrow, we respond, “Oh, that’s one of our support groups. They laugh a lot.”

People expect our groups to be somber. Cancer is difficult, and there are meetings filled with concern and sadness. But there are also times that we giggle and laugh out loud.

Part of the reason that we laugh is that we can let our hair down (even if we’re bald from chemo) when we’re with other cancer patients. There’s no need to put on a brave face for anyone. If you have cancer and laugh, “outsiders” don’t know how to react. Other people with cancer just laugh with you.

Laughter also builds community. Our motto at the Cancer Resource Center is that “no one should face cancer alone.” It’s hard to feel alone when you’re sharing a laugh.

Every Friday morning, a large group of guys with cancer get together for breakfast at the Royal Court Restaurant. We always begin and end with jokes. It connects us, and also takes our minds off of cancer if only for a few moments. That’s a gift.

At first, it might seem odd to connect cancer and humor, but, in reality, it’s perfect.

Humor is a fundamental part of being human. Cancer, too, is a difficult human experience that affects far too many of us. Laughter is light that takes away darkness.


Reprinted with permission of the Ithaca Journal.

Click here to see all of Bob’s Columns

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