Ten Lessons for Enriching Life Learned by a Cancer Survivor. Lesson Eight: Rejection Scars. Laughter Heals.

Editor’s note: A Tenth Anniversary Remembrance is a CancerForward series of blog posts attributed to the late Mariana Dieste Mead, MD, who fought pancreatic cancer for four years. In their original format, the posts are excerpts of “Ten Lessons for Enriching Life Learned by Confronting Death” written by Dr. Mead in collaboration with Clare Broun Johnson. The CancerForward series appears July 29 through August 9, 2012.

by Mariana Dieste Mead, MD (1955 – 2002)

Do some kids seem to have all the luck? Well, that was me for a while. I was always a popular kid with never a shortage of friends. School came easy to me, and practicing medicine was truly fulfilling. Then cancer.

I was skinny, bald, ugly, and told to retire from work, and from life. In the midst of all the overwhelming support and love pouring my way, I felt rejected and isolated for really the first time in my life. I could no longer do all that I loved: no running; no playing tennis; no school events with the girls; no tending to patients or performing eye surgery. Rejection cuts deep and it scars.

Laughter, on the other hand, heals those wounds. Laughter is a powerful medicine and has played a tremendous role in my recovery. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously but instead to look for the humor in the most unfunny situation.

I was desperately ill after having my spleen removed and connected to all sorts of pain pumps, tubes and catheters. One day, a nurse came in and told me to get cleaned up. Fortunately, my friend Pam was visiting, and we struggled to get all my tubes and me into the shower. When the nurse returned, we asked her how we could successfully do this with all the tubes. She replied: “I don’t really know. I usually work nights.” Pam and I laughed so hard that we both had to sit down in the shower.

As a doctor, I suggest one full belly laugh at least once a day. As a patient, I ask you to be especially aware of anyone who may feel rejected, alone, or insecure, and give them a reason to smile.

Editor’s Note: Lesson Nine: PERSEVERE will appear in the next installment of CancerForward’s blog, to be published August 7, 2012.

Category: Cancer

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