Monday, September 4, 2017

Laughter in the Doctor's Office

I was sitting in the oncology waiting room for a follow-up visit after surgery. I hadn’t started chemotherapy or radiation yet, and was waiting to meet with the doctor to get clearance to begin treatment. It was a small waiting room and everyone looked very serious--cancer is serious business. We were mostly avoiding eye contact with each other as if in the hallway waiting to meet our elementary school principal, knowing we were in big trouble.
     In the middle of this bleakness my brother whispered in my ear, “You can have my hair.” What? “You can have my hair. When you lose yours, you can have mine.” I looked at his golden head. He was wearing his long hair in a very nice style fresh from Los Angeles. I pictured myself for a moment with his hair, my face with his flowing locks. Then we both cracked up.
     Another time while waiting for a doctor appointment, I noticed two women enter the room. One had the obvious short hair style of the cancer patient and the other appeared to be her friend. They were sitting close to each other, heads bent together and whispering, then giggling and more giggling. "Way to go," I thought. "Take that, cancer! You big bully! You may try to crush the life out of us, but we are fighting back!"

     A few months later I was waiting for my radiation treatment. Radiation treatments occurred daily, so the people in the waiting room became familiar. We rooted for each other: three weeks left, two weeks left ... hooray!
I made a friend in the waiting room. Our time slots were next to each other. I will call him Mike. I saw Mike and his wife every day. We enjoyed our small talk and chit chat. One day it took Mike an unusually long time to come out of radiation. By the time they wheeled him out of the room he looked uncharacteristically ticked off.
     “What happened Mike?” I asked. “You were in there a long time.”
     “It took them forever to get my position right.” Body position had to be lined up perfectly before receiving radiation and you couldn’t move.
     “Did you wiggle?” I asked him. 
     “Of course I wiggled!” Mike answered emphatically. Then he smiled, and we both laughed.
My radiologist had a good sense of humor. One day I told her of a joke I played on my older brother, Scott. We had a habit of giving gag gifts on our birthdays. Each silly present seemed to outdo the one before. This year Scott hinted that what he really wanted for his birthday was my tumor in a jar. Ha, ha, good one, Scott. He did have a sick sense of humor.
When his birthday rolled around, I found a large, opaque mayonnaise jar. I made a very realistic hospital label, then stuffed the jar with chicken from his favorite bar-b-que restaurant.
     My Mom presented my “gift” to him and pulled off the joke perfectly, with a straight face and serious attitude. “This is from Sara,” she said. Scott looked bewildered. Had I really sent the tumor to him? Then he read the label:  Sara’s tumor. Tastes just like chicken.
Cancer is serious business, but we don’t have to let it boss us around. We can have fun behind its back. It may growl and scowl at us, stand at its full height and threaten, but we have some fight in us yet. Remember that when you are in the waiting room. Don’t let it squelch your joy, your humor. You won’t get in trouble for laughing in the doctor’s office.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

All photos courtesy of


  1. Sara I love this. Yes, life is serious, but your sense of humor is also a source of strength. Kudos!