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Gallows humor


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Randy's post "Why this forum is important to us" started me thinking about all the sick/black/gallows humor I used to get me through this ordeal.

When I met the oncologist for the first time in my hospital room he was very seriously going through the tx plan and told me that I wouldn't get nauseaous (he lied) but I would lose my hair (he was right). With a very straight face I turned to my husband and said "I guess I'll show up on the Christmas photos this year when the flash reflects off my head" The onc sat there absolutely stunned until my husband cracked up, we had broken the spell.

From there on the dr had a very different attitude, he never started the silliness but he always joined in once we did.

I can't imagine going through anything worse than cancer and I can't imagine not seeing the funny side of all the things you go through. One of the things I treasure from this site is the exchange of sick humor I had with Addie, through all of this crap we could laugh until it hurt. Even the last conversation I had with her before she died included laughter.

How did you all handle this?

Is humor a part of your life during a crisis?


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Geri - Humor is a part of our family even during crisis. My dad is currently in the hospital and has been in there 3 1/2 weeks. Most of this time he has been confused and suffering from some type of dementia (first from a fever, then from low blood, then from UTI). Anyways, he is not real happy with the hospital food and so my sister brought him some snacks. I know she did not intend to do this but that makes it even funnier. She bought dad some NUTTY BARS and DING DONGS. :roll:

I think they honestly work! Whenever dad was getting confused and extremely irritated I would give him a Nutty Bar and that would get his mind off the anger. (Chocolate always makes me happy too!)

I think humor is especially important when facing a crisis.


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Dennis always laughed through his illness. He and his doctor hit it off right from the start and joking with each other was something that happened at each visit. Dennis and his lifelong best friend always loved "fart jokes." Some of the best laughs I ever heard Dennis have were when he would have a serious case of "chemo farts"...as Dennis would refer to them. Humor was a huge part of him making it through his treatment. That is why I still try and remain so active on this particular forum.

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OMG Geri, you hit a very important button of mine. Life is serious stuff even when you are not sick, school, work, family, community etc, all important and serious stuff.

BUT you must laugh every day, and often every day. There is humor to be found everywhere. Maybe because I was raised Irish Catholic and spent way too many hours at Irish wakes, I realized very young that laughter does not mean that life is trivial.

When Earl came home into hospice care, the hospice nurse told the lpn I had hired, that she thought there was too much humor in our house. I almost fired her the minute I heard. It didn't take her long to get the picture. We all knew Earl was dying but that did not mean that he couldn't laugh, we actually all knew it was important that he laugh.

And, Ann, to get back to your fart humor, the night Earl died it appeared he may have had a problem. When we checked it was okay - the hospice nurse said, "Oh, he just passed gas, but then we know that is a man thing". Yep, she really had gotten it and the children and I smiled a little through our tears.

My sister who died 3 months before Earl had had an horrendous 5 years prior to dying. She had lost her husband, 3 children and had too many to mention medical problems. I spoke with her everyday. When I would get off the phone, Earl would ask with whom I was speaking and I would say, I was just laughing for 1/2 hour - so it had to have been Toni.

Is laughter important - YOU BET, HA HA HA

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Years ago (I was in high school), Mom was very sick in the hospital after surgery for her Crohns that had serious complications. She wasn't expected to make it then, either. At that time, Mom was a church secretary.

One of the very sweet OLD men from the church came out to visit (Mom was out of it), and he asked if we could pray. Solemnly, my brothers and I joined hands. When he began his prayers with, "Lord, please don't let Beverly be in TOO MUCH pain", we fought to keep it together. I mean, in or minds, as long as you are praying to the Big Guy, why not go whole hog and ask for NO pain? Is that too greedy?

We still tease Mom about her hallucinations when she comes out from under ansethesia. One time she thought she saw spiders on the wall, and couldn't relax. Finally my younger brother rolled up a magazine and went and pounded on the wall. Mom was finally albe to sleep after that. She's a loon at times like that!

Laughter is a gift. Many think we are callous, but it has helped my brothers and I through a lot.

:) Kelly

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  • 2 weeks later...


Jim and I laughed our way through life. Sometimes inappropriately, sometimes irreverantly.

His doctor was from Syria and approached us initially with a quite serious tone. After about 5 minutes of absorbing a sobering diagnosis, we quipped about something. The doctor looked a little stunned, but then began to share his good sense of humor as well through the remainder of our days as the 3 musketeers, fighting for what we could.

After Jim developed a tumor in his brain, he too saw spiders at the end of the bed and on the walls. At first, I tried to lovingly reason with him that they were not real. He wasn't buying. So, I began to try and crush them and would ask him if I got them. He always shook his head 'no' and I could never tell for sure if there was a slight smile behind the shake of his head.......I'll never know, but I'll always remember his smile and his GREAT sense of humor.....

Thanks for asking about this Geri and relating your laughing tales,


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I think you're right-on, Geri. Humourous moments gave my mom and I the best of times through this, as fleeting as those were for my mom to have.

Even now, humour as much as possible is helping bunches. And, I agree that the humour gets inappropriate or irreverant at times -- but whose to say what's inappropriate or irreverant anyway?

I tended to take things way too seriously before the "big C" came into my life with both of my parents. Not anymore. Life will never become drab and boring for me again with societal expectations of what I am supposed to be or do. No freakin' way.

And, I will never look at another person with expectations of what they should look like or be doing either -- I think that's a great achievement after all of this; letting others off the hook to just be who they are, no matter what....and just laugh with them and love them is enough.


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You hit the nail on the head Geri. I love your humor. Having humor makes you feel better and makes it so much more comfortable for people around you.

Laughter certainly is the best medcine. We should practice that everyday and not get so involved in the negative side of an illness.

Your great Geri, I love reading your posts they are always full of humor which puts a smile on my face. :lol:

Your friend,

Maryanne :wink:

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Oh Geri how I LOVE this topic!!

My family is so FAR from serious most of the time it can make people wonder!!


Mom:(Calling me to remind me of plans for Christmas) "I have a brain tumor"

Me: :shock: You DO????


Mom: Well, hospice came and took everything out.

Me: Why? Ya not dying fast enough or something?


Mom relaxing, getting a foot rub from her hospice aide before they pulled out (because she wasn't dying fast enough! LOL) I walk in, look at the aide and say "You know, the ONLY reason she got lung cancer was to get her legs and feet rubbed. We got tired of doing it!"

As you can see...we TRY to have a good time. Granted, there are always times that the sadness takes over...but usually, around here, the laughter follows quickly again!

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Nope, I don't have a sense of humor and have never laughed while under stress, in treatment, or ever...

Oh, but there WAS the radiation oncologist... I had a horrible taste in my mouth during radiation. Yeah, me and about 10% of people that go through it - LOVE being in the minority... I remembered something from my "natural child birth" classes about sour candies making one salivate more so I tried something new on the market, Altoid's tangerine sours. Prior to being zapped, I'd stick a handful in my mouth and suck on 'em. The taste wasn't so bad... For one of my first visits with the R/O after using these sour candies, I asked the doctor if he would like a piece of candy and handed him the tin. He was of Indian descent and his English was accented...

He popped this piece of candy in his mouth and the sour took over - I thought his face was going to be sucked in through his mouth and turn the man inside out! (Cripe, I'm laughing so hard as I remember this that I almost wet my pants!) After he regains some of his composure, he looks at me and states, "You WILL be remembered, Rebecca".

Yep, never a dull moment...

My motto? After my surgery, it hurt to even breathe. It felt so much better to hurt after a deep belly laugh than to simply hurt... Humor is a must, it helps the brain get through all the bad crap.

And Geri, I remember holding Addie's pork chop and her humor, and I miss her, as well. A lot.

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Humor is absolutely an important part of dealing with the stress of lc. My older brother (who is also diagnosed with lc) gave me a birthday card recently that said: "Getting older, look on the bright side." When I opened the card, the inside said: "Well there is no bright side, but there is a bright light. You'll want to stay away from that."

We both laughed our a**es off! He told me that he showed the card to some friends before giving it to me and they were appalled and felt that it would not be appropriate. He just said "she will think it's really funny." I absolutely did. I think that laughter is really good medicine and it helps to alleviate all the stress.


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You know the answer, I find everything funny, I would never have gotten through some of the times in my life without a sense of humour. Of course, my lung cancer has been no exception.

When I first went up north on this 'temporary' assignment, the quarterly reviews were due, the ones where the VP comes down and everyone gathers in a room for the Power Point presentation of each department. I always make a 'lung' joke when the VP is down- don't ask me how it got started- the entire room including the VP wait for it. I have gone through the gamut - expecting the one-lung woman to speak louder, wasting bubble gum since I can only blow lopsided bubbles, my efforts at trying to float sideways, lung cancer Barbie- don't ask. :shock: So this time, I wasn't going to be there but my review was. Well, the cover sheet has your Team or Dept number and a flower on the bottom. I googled like crazy and the cover sheet of my review ended up missing the flower but in its place was a chest xray with a big X through the right lung. I was told that it brought down the house. :wink:

Nothing is sacred actually - years ago my sister and I were in the funeral home standing at her mother-in-law's casket. The woman had wanted all sorts of things in there, a bottle of whiskey, stuffed animal, a phone, etc. We were standing there looking down at all this stuff and without thinking, after seeing the phone, I said to my sister without meaning to be funny - Holy crap Lisa, I forgot to call home. My sister nodded at the phone and said, "feel free". We knelt there trying to fight the giggles, shoulders shaking for what seemed like forever.

My boss has told me that in NY this week at the conference, I need to work at being totally unfunny :shock: . I think it will be a challenge.

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A few months ago Richard had to have an endoscopy test, we had to be at the hospital very early in the morning and go through all the usual routine of Q and A. During this process the clerk asked if he had a living will, yes, is it on file here, no. Oh, she says and I jumped in.......I have it, so don't pis_ me off this morning Richard or I'll let them hook you up!! She didn't miss a beat and told him that she'd seen him give me his wallet and as I had all the money he's better pay attention to what I said.

We all cracked up and the whole waiting room gawked at us - I quess you're not supposed to enjoy these type of things huh?

From there on the silliness escalated and she thoroughly enjoyed this particular sign in. We aim to amuse!!!


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