So, OK, my friend Kelli has breast cancer. Which, I think we can all agree, sucks. She’s got a little kid and husband who love and need her very much, and she has, over the past 40-some-odd years, grown rather fond of being alive. The whole cancer thing inconvenient for her, to say the least.
Before I continue, I want to say that I’ve known more than my fair share of people with breast cancer and, sadly, many other varieties of cancer. My aunt and godmother died way too young of breast cancer, but my great-grandmother and grandmother both survived it. Cancer is as rampant in my family as anger issues, drunken fights at funerals and weddings, and grudges that last longer than most marriages; I am no stranger watching people battle cancer.
I tell you this so that you understand my sincerity when I tell you cancer is a laughing matter. It has to be. Kelli and her family could spend hours on the couch, fretting over what might happen and what, in fact, has happened to many others. It would not do them a bit of good, and she realizes this. The best thing she can do is demand the best care available, ask lots of questions, and, as she decided to do after receiving her primary diagnosis, laugh her way through the disease.
Cancer, we decided, can be funny. Breast cancer doubly so, if you’ll pardon the pun. Don’t think so? Kelli and I have prepared a short list of ways she’s going to laugh her way through this nightmare. As she said to me as we shopped for Halloween candy last week, she’s the one with cancer, so who’s going to argue with her?
6. You get to be bald. Look, I have no idea what my scalp looks like. Is it bumpy? Does it have any odd birthmarks? Is bald a good look for me? Most of us will never know, because we simply lack the fashion fortitude to shave our heads. Cancer patients, though… man, they get to find out. How lucky are they? Bonus: the hair could grow back a different color, curlier, or straighter. It’s like getting a whole new head of hair for free.
5. Until you do lose your hair, why not have some fun? Go big or go home, I say. Kelli didn’t start chemo in time for Halloween, so we missed the boat on dying her hair orange and black and shaving a pumpkin into the back of her head. With a little luck, though, she’ll have poisons whipping through her blood by Thanksgiving, so we’re thinking of shaving a horn of plenty into the back of her heard and dying her dark blonde locks some soothing horn-of-plenty colors.
4. Points. Kelli is lucky enough to have health insurance – she and her husband own PJs – but she still has to make co-pays to her new BFFs: oncologists, surgeons, and laboratories. She figures if she uses her American Express to make those payments, she can use the points to take a trip to Spain and eat grilled octopus.
3. Weight loss. For women, this is a biggie. How many of us struggle to keep those extra five, ten or twenty pounds off our hips? Once you start getting chemo, you’re probably not going to keep anything down. For people like me who are a big fan of food, that part, admittedly, is a bit of a downer. Kelli’s gym membership expired last month, and what great luck is it that she hadn’t gotten around to renewing yet? She can hang up her gym shoes and sit back and just watch the weight fall off! Plus, you know, the weight she’s going to lose with that double mastectomy she’ll be model-thin. As I understand it, a DD cup breast weighs about 10 pounds. That’s 20 pounds right there. Which brings us to our next major point…
2. You get new boobs. Most women get breast cancer either right about the time or just after their breasts start to, shall we say, feel their age. For you perky A and B cups out there, aging breasts aren’t an issue. For those of us slightly more well endowed, though, the prospect of gunning down middle age with a new set of the ladies is wonderful. Because – and this is the best part – the new set won’t sag. Ever. Think about that for a moment. You get to trade in the 1960s or 1970s models for brand-new cleavage that can be any size you want.
1. Nothing. Nothing is the best part about getting cancer, even highly treatable (when caught early) cancers such as breast cancer. The treatment isn’t fun. Losing your hair, not being able to keep food down, having a single or double mastectomy – it’s all just a rotten, lousy hand of cards that one in every eight women will be dealt in her life.
I have tremendous hope for Kelli and women like her, and I hope that as they go through the hell that is treatment they can still find ways to laugh. After all, journalist Linda Ellerbee says, a good time to laugh is any time you can.
I’d be lying if I told you Kelli wasn’t petrified. She is. But she chooses to laugh now. And, after all, she’s the one with cancer. Who are we to argue?
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.