Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. To say life handed me a curve ball is a gross understatement. I was devastated, in shock and lost for about a week. I spent my time replaying those four little words trying to figure out my next move. I looked around, wondering, what was the point of any of it, cancer at 32 years old, married less than a decade to the love of my life. I'm an only child, what was this going to do to my parents? And our boys, oh, and what this monster was going to steal from them. But in asking myself those questions, I realized I had much more to fight for than just my own life; I was fighting for my all of my family, for my children and their futures. Besides, who was this tipsy, drunken beast anyway, trying to tell me what to do and where to go? Huh, that wasn’t going to happen, not if I had any say in the matter! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a fighter, I don’t give up easily and cancer was not going to take me down without a fight.
I had a plan, whether that plan worked out or not, was not a problem, letting go of my joy, happiness, humor and laughter was. Facing cancer was not just solely about chemo, surgery, what my chances were or how other people saw me. Nope cancer for me, as with everything in life, was and is about how I chose to live day by day. I’ve been so blessed to have a small immediate family and yet such a big extended family at the same time. The worst times in my life have been filled with the best memories; despite the uncertainties as a family we have experienced more laughter than tears. If it wasn’t for those family ties, the bonds through blood and by extension, I wouldn’t be here today. Who laughs while singing "they’re going to whack my breast off " to the tune of following the leader, imagining her excommunicated breast being sliced up like a piece of cake and incinerated? This women right here, why, because laughter is the key to happiness and sanity.
Life lesson #9: Laughter and humor, unlikely gifts we give ourselves.
Family, in my experience, has been the key to my happiness, and yes, at times misery too. Mostly, they have been my greatest sources of humor and laughter. The memories we’ve made together since cancer charged through the door are countless. We’ve gathered around the table, laughed, cried, shared stories of our day, letting life fall out unfiltered in the last 2,830 days. Our ties go deep, we share a bond to this day which may very well be shaken but can never be replaced or broken. Learning to laugh in the face of difficulties has been the greatest gift imaginable. I love knowing some 2,000 days later, our boys, who are honestly men now, feel free to dance with those radioactive monsters hiding under their beds instead of running away, screaming in haze-mat suites. Laughter, is a critical component if we plan on enjoying life, the truth is; sometimes we just have to be OK with making random crazy, funny and absurd faces into the crowd. Laughter, humor and the ability to amuse ourselves gives way to celebration, re-enforcing our ties with those we call family. The fuzzy monsters nowadays camping out in the guest room aren’t so scary anymore. They’re just part of our curiosity, the incredibly, outrageousness, and ridiculousness of the world around us.
What I've learned in this upside down world we live in is we inherit or create family; it doesn’t matter by birth or invitation. The family we tie to ourselves can conceive and develop ties to happiness or to misery, the choice is ours. Being happy doesn’t require a life without difficulties, but on the other hand it does demand a good sense of humor and an acceptance of the absurd, craziness and eccentricity of our beautiful, yet baffling flaws. Once the smoke clears and the monsters have been tamed; we have an anchor in those ties binding us to one another. Humor and laughter absolutely ease the difficult times, that is, if you’re open to happiness instead of bitterness and blame.
At this part of my story, I can say life has turned out fairly well, all in all. When I sit down, pull my chair up to the table and fill my plate each night I know happiness. Laughter, as it turns out has been our best friend. Happiness has fueled my life with a drive to live; my family has learned to thrive, not just survive in spite of whatever monster has shown up to play. Laughter and a sense of family has given us reason for celebrations, distractions, diversions, fun times, hilarity, whimsical moments, artfulness, brilliance, cleverness, comedy, irony, quickness, resourcefulness and yes true wit. Deposits like these are priceless gifts and so my advice to you: make sure not to overlook or omit happiness, whatever form presents in your family bank!