IN THE BEGINNING, they claimed they never promised us a rose garden. Never said there wasn’t one, so I assumed I’d wake up and bees would be a buzzin’.
Then someone up there, said, “Hey lady, wanna learn some great lessons?” Before I could answer, like everyone else in some manner, I endured grief, disappointments, illness including cancer and, more recently, brain surgery, plus some bad fish.
Fortunately, I have a congenital condition known as Opticockyitis, named after the doctor who diagnosed it in a cocker spaniel. It’s an affliction causing me to observe most situations a bit off-center. Can’t help myself. It is like being born with a Whoopee cushion in my head. Whenever I was dealt a major blow in life, and after I finished crying, moaning, and complaining, my ability to observe the moment with this unusual perspective saved my life, according to my physicians.
But I have a confession to make. After first being touched by an angel in an inappropriate place, I was shocked. “Not me, not cancer.” I had mammograms every year, ate well, jogged, practiced yoga, laughed and made love frequently (sometimes at the same time — talk about multi-tasking or ADD) so, of course, I had to be immune.
As a motivational seminar leader, teaching about the connection between mind and body, stressing humor was an important element. In my workshops I taught that increasing the laughter in one’s life is essential to one’s wellbeing. I was a newspaper humor columnist and an author of funny survival books. I was founder of the International Humor & Healing Institute and a Certified Master Clinical Hypnotherapist. How could this have happened?
No one in my family had cancer. I did not fit any statistics: oh yeah, except the part about early detection. My trusted radiologist made a major error: He hadn’t noticed the cancer during the last few mammograms in the fourteen years he was my doctor. OOPS!
The situation became worse with every decision. Before the cancer and lousy chemotherapy, I was a healthy lady. Cancer can make you sick; not the illness itself, but the treatment. Years ago, though not now, receiving chemotherapy was like dropping a bomb to catch a fly; killing the insect, but affecting so much more.
I believe in fifty years we will think that placing toxins in our bodies is barbaric.
People will say, “You’re kidding. Do you mean in the twentieth century when people had a severe illness, they removed the part with the problem and then they pumped your body full of crap? EEEW!’
When told I needed a biopsy I asked if it mattered if I waited a couple of weeks. I had a scheduled speaking engagement in Washington, DC, plus a meeting with Patch Adams, that remarkable physician who uses humor in dealing with his patients and dreamed of building a free hospital.
We shared information. I told him about my plan for placing humor/healing rooms in hospitals to start, then corporations and schools.
I had designed rooms to promote healing by inducing positive emotions in a hospital setting in addition to other medical therapies. It was intended to prevent burnout among staff and as a pleasant waiting section for visitors. By placing specific areas with healing colors, soothing sound, ergonomically designed furniture and humor from every medium, enlightened physicians could write a prescription for the patient to spend time in the Humor Room just as they would prescribe any other physical therapy.
The first place was to be the “Steve Allen Humor Room.” Steve had become a dear friend and supporter after he appeared on my television show, and I was a frequent guest on his syndicated WNEW radio program. He was a kind, brilliant and funny man.
The doctor said it would be OK to take my trip if I agreed not to wait more than those two weeks. I took healing tapes to play in my hotel room as well as books and soothing meditations. I knew I’d be OK. I have always believed in the power of prayer and the kindness of strangers. “Not so fast,” Grandma used to say, “Man plans. God laughs hysterically.
It was cancer. It had spread to lymph nodes.
I had chemotherapy and, much later, brain tumor surgery. When my hair grew back an inch, just for fun my caregiver dyed it blonde for two days.
I looked like rocker Eminem, cursed, and grabbed my crotch a lot. I let it grow back auburn.
I was no longer recognizable to myself. I cried in the shower every day. After the screams and unending tears, a new plan was necessary: to do what always helped me before, which was to get out of me and assist others.
I had done that when Steve Allen died suddenly and my grief was so enormous that I gave up dreams of installing Humor Rooms.
Whenever I am in a funk, what often helps me (besides music or funny films) is helping someone else out of his or her distress.
So I presented university programs regarding the benefits of humor in business, which were voted the best for three years in a row, and I shared healing techniques with doctors, nurses, and technicians at clinics, hospitals and major corporations.
But the two actions that proved most helpful to me were: 1) forming “Jan’s Army” and awarding badges of heroism to other survivors And 2) keeping notes and seeking out the humor in daily hassles, such as dealing with new technology, internet dating, and more; then turning them into newspaper columns and books, the most recent: “Dancin’, Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! *Dancin’ is code for anything pleasurable.
It is dedicated to veterans, cancer and brain tumor survivors and regular people simply dealing with “stuff.” Most important, it includes tips and techniques for living joyfully, even when going through a rough patch.
I’m still “dancin’ ” as are all you gutsy people, even though your very own scars may not be visible. Cheers to you!