… like …
How FUNNY is cancer?
The thing that has surprised me the most over the last 6 weeks is that even in the absolute worst experiences of our lives, it can still be funny if you choose to see it that way. It’s how my Grandma always saw the world and how I do too.
I guess this is the part where I potentially piss off someone who will inevitably scream “OMFG HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH A THING?”.
Of course Cancer, as a disease, is not funny. In fact, it’s pretty awful. But still, I have the belief that anything in life can have an upside and a funny side, and I am unapologetic about that. And when you sit around, waiting for someone to die, it very quickly becomes boring. And repetitive. And… gradual. And kinda gross. And sometimes sad.
But also… funny. And often more funny than you’d think.
But people always focus on the sad parts — you know, those Hollywood notions of what it’s like to be on your deathbed with cancer, or to watch someone you love on their deathbed with cancer… but in the real world, even the quickest-killing cancers (like the one that is killing my Grandma) have an initial “shock” period, followed by shitloads of waiting around, talking, philosophising and yes, laughing our arses off. There are no candlelight vigils at her bedside, no dramatic upward glances towards the man in the sky asking “WHY?”, no opening of old wounds or even resolution of old conflicts.
Most of the time it is just sitting around, talking. Frequently about the same thing every 10 minutes. Sometimes, because of the swelling in her brain, complete and utter hilarious nonsense. There is also a lot of hand holding, back rubbing, shoulder stroking and mouth-goober removal, as well as constant reassurance that she is not going to fall out of the bed, that she is already in her bed and no, she can’t go outside because it’s 8pm. But mostly, we laugh.
She talks nonsense sometimes, is confused most of the time and sleeps the rest. But we laugh.
She is incontinent and wears nappies. But, we find a way to laugh with her about it.
She is paralysed on her left side and increasingly losing control of her right side. But, we don’t draw attention to it and subtly move her arm so it’s comfortable and rub her feet even though she can’t feel much.
And she tells my 8 year old daughter to make sure she has sex “20 times before getting married”, says the funniest of things that I have tweeted but have since forgotten… but still make me smile at the thought of her laughing.
And when people at the Hospice, or other well wishers, give me that look like “wow, you must be doing it tough” and looks of support and sympathy, there’s a bit of a disconnect because for me, because even though I know that cancer is killing my Grandma, in a roundabout way it has been an incredibly enriching and utterly comical experience.
Except, of course, for that bit where she dies. That’s devastating. But I know that when she does go, she will want me to think of her, smile & laugh — not cry. But I will cry. But I will also laugh. And that is one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me, was to laugh at everything. Even cancer.