Offensive Thinking

Brain tumors suck. Hi, I'm Patrick btw. This is my cancer blog. My "normal" stuff is over here.

Tumor Humor - Never Underestimate the Healing Effects of a Good Laugh

Got this cute little guy as a gift.
Got this cute little guy as a gift.

I’ve always had a rather dark and sarcastic/cynical kind of humor. I’m glad my tumor didn’t change that. Apparently, dark and cynical humor is not located in the left frontal lobe. With all the tragedy, tears and gloomy thoughts about death, having a good laugh keeps me sane.

“So, a brain tumor walks in a bar and says…”

This includes making fun of my tumor and the bleak outline cancer gives me (statistically speaking). I see others dealing with cancer in the same way too, at least those I feel connected to when I read their blogs or their tweets. I think it’s part of fighting the fight not to let cancer diminish your humor, and humor always was and is a way for us humans to deal with all things that frighten us. The other thing is religion, but I won’t get into that here (I’m an atheist btw., so here you go). If you joke about it, it becomes more bearable and also shows a kind of defiance towards something you can’t really control.

Other People’s Tumor Humor

Let me try to give you some examples: There are a lot of other brain tumor patients that give names to their tumors, for instance. I had to laugh really hard when I first saw Jennifer’s blog Grey Matter Life and her description of herself and how she named her tumor:

“[…] I write this blog to chronicle our lives and our journey with my brain tumor. A tumor I’ve lovingly and respectfully named, ‘piece of shit’.”

Others just have a really funny writing style in some of their blog posts, like Kenti for example. He gives a very accurate description of the living hell that is a hospital room you have to share with others when you have a pounding headache from your recent brain surgery, but your roommates are snoring like lumberjacks. Not that I ever met one, I’m just cultivating my prejudices here.

Suleika Jaouad recently started some tweets with the sentence “Sometimes, I wear a white lab coat to my appts & when my doc comes in I say, …”, encouraging others to finish the sentence. I had my own two lame tries, search for the sentence on twitter if you like. It just shows how people try to deal with things like the fear that accompanies you with every doctor’s appointment.

Absurd Problems and I

Sometimes, the absurdity of other people’s problems and the whole eye-opening experience of having a terminal illness that really shows you what’s important in this one life we have are just begging to be made fun of. That doesn’t mean that I think other people are not allowed to feel bad about their problems, too. Hey, looking at myself from a different perspective, I’m pretty well off. I’m not living in a war zone where I have to be thankful for not getting shot at in the middle of the day, for example. I have all the medical attention I need, where other’s die from drinking contaminated water. As cruel as it sounds, there are probably a lot of people in this world that would trade places with me, even if they knew about the brain tumor, because having a statistical survival rate of 7 years beats starving or getting shot any day. But I’m digressing. Fact is, it’s ok to complain about your sore throat in front of me. Just expect me to make a joke about my sore throat being cancelled out by the huge headache I have from my brain growing larger every day (not happening at the moment, don’t be afraid). I also try not to sound like I’m always putting myself in front of everyone else, by playing the cancer card. Life’s not always about me, that’s what blog posts are for ;).

Keeping my Mouth Shut

Mind you, I do try to keep quiet around people where I know they would be offended by jokes about my cancer. Sounds silly, right? But I think being the one who you’re making fun of doesn’t automatically give you the right to offend others. I know I can joke with my wife though, and she does it, too. Sometimes, when we make quips around friends, I have to be careful not to become too blunt. It also depends on who I’m talking to. For those who know me well enough, it is ok if I casually tell my wife during dinner with friends that <INSERT JOKE ABOUT MY IMMINENT DEATH HERE>. For others, it is already too offensive if I mention that I originally wanted to have my tumor back from the hospital cast in plastic as a paper weight, with “My Conscience” written in large letters beneath it.

Being Unfair

I’m not always in the mood for joking though. I also, and here I might sometimes be unfair to others, tend to have a problem with people making jokes about my illness where I have the feeling that they think it is ok because I do it myself, but I don’t think they grasp the full seriousness of the situation. Do you get mixed signals from me now? If not, don’t tell me you read the whole blog post and go directly to the TL;DR section1 at the bottom. In my world of mixed feelings about my illness, you only qualify for being one those whom I allow to make jokes if I believe you first understand my situation (see also my So, everything is ok now, right? blog post). This naturally includes everyone with cancer, but might sometimes make me judge people unfairly I have to admit. Unfortunately, me judging people prematurely is one of my character traits, as my wife will confirm. I’m working on that.

Obligatory Humor-related Excuse

One last thing: Writing a blog post about tumor humor automatically drives every witticism and funniness from your writing style (at least from mine). It’s like not thinking about the proverbial blue elephant, only in reverse: As soon as you start writing, it seems that whatever you write is the opposite of funny, so it feels kinda hard to get your point across. Therefore I rely on the examples I gave you from other people’s blogs and tweets to show you that this whole tragedy has a funny side, too. Please pardon any bad joke I inserted in this post and add some good ones in the comments (no pressure).

1 TL;DR: Oh for your deity’s sake, go and read the whole blog post. I’m dying here, you know? I don’t have the time to write summaries of my blog posts, this is not Reddit.