Note from Carolyn: “I’m taking the weekend off as we celebrate with family and friends the wedding of my favourite daughter, Larissa. So meanwhile, I’ve obtained permission to republish this guest post by Casey Quinlan for you. Enjoy!”
It’s not easy hearing your name and [insert dread diagnosis here]. I know this only too well after having to find the funny in my own journey through cancer. Cancer is, however, most often a diagnosis that you fight to a defined end. What’s it like to find the funny in a chronic condition?
I have a number of friends who are battling MS, one of whom, Amy Gurowitz, shared a link on Facebook the other day to Jim Sweeney’s online empire of improv humor and chronic disease. Jim’s MS journey started with vision problems in 1985, he was officially diagnosed in 1990, and has been dealing with the disease – finding the funny most of the time – ever since.
Jim’s body of work includes decades of live improv, his one-man show “My MS & Me,” which you can hear on the BBC Radio 1 site. His MS has progressed to the point that he’s now in a wheelchair; his public presence includes Twitter, where his profile describes him as a housebound hedonist (hey, it made ME laugh) and the documentary film The Sweeney.
How much courage does it take to laugh out loud, in public, at an incurable disease? Jim certainly has courage at the level required.
Other examples of funny-or-die in managing chronic disease include Mark S. King’s fabulously funny My Fabulous Disease blog (Mark is HIV-positive). The aforementioned Amy Gurowitz laughs out loud about her MS in a number of places, including MS Soft Serve and MS-LOL (life of learning OR laugh out loud, you pick).
On the provider side, there are a number of docs who are breaking up the waiting rooms and wards.
Dr. Patricia Raymond is a gastroenterologist whose mission in life is to take the “ick” out of colonoscopies. She bills herself as The Fabulous Butt Meddler. Since she looks like Bette Midler, the joke works on every level.
Dr. Zubin Damania, aka ZDoggMD (“Slightly Funnier Than Placebo”), is a hospital medicine specialist in Palo Alto as well as a veritable buffet of medical humor, some G-rated and some most definitely NSFW. His videos alone guarantee hours of laughter.
There’s an entire site dedicated to clinician humor called GiggleMed.com – both ZDoggMD and Dr. Butt Meddler are featured there, along with a host of other find-the-funny MDs and RNs.
I even found a scholarly article entitled The Use of Humor to Promote Patient Centered Care – be warned, though, that (1) it’s a “scholarly article,” meaning that it’s probably had all the laughs surgically removed, and (2) they want $34 for it. You have been warned.
What’s my point here? I actually have two:
- Laughter really is the best medicine. Humor keeps us in touch with our humanity, and – unless it’s insult comedy, which I do not recommend in the health care arena, unless it’s insulting bad health care – it helps to comfort others in the same situation.
- Patients and providers need to work together to help each other find the funny. If you’re a doctor, don’t just say: “You’ve got [insert dread diagnosis here], here’s the treatment plan, call if you have any questions, … NEXT!” Look your patients in the eye, and channel your inner comedian whenever it’s appropriate. If you’re a patient, connect with other people in your situation and see how they’re finding the funny. And help your doctors find their funny. If they can’t find it, you should find another doctor.
We all need to work together to break each other up. Laughter can comfort, can calm, it can even heal.
That’s real disruptive health care, no prescription required.
♥ ♥ ♥
This article was reposted here with the kind permission of Disruptive Women in Health Care, where it was originally published on November 23, 2011. Casey Quinlan is a storyteller, speaker, media strategist, stand-up comic and author of “Cancer for Christmas: Making the Most of a Daunting Gift – the story of her “health care car wash” ride after being diagnosed with breast cancer five days before Christmas in 2007.
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