As I walked through the halls of the St John of God Hospital in Geelong, I was filled with all sorts of preconceived notions of what I was about to witness. I had agreed to accompany my dear friend to a meeting of a prostate cancer support group.
As I entered the room, thirty pairs of eyes looked up and followed me to my seat. Of course the only vacant seats were on the other side of the room at the front. I was welcomed in as a newcomer and was able to let them know that I did not have prostate cancer. A hearty laugh accompanied their assurance of relief.
There were only two other women in the room so I was certainly there as a minority, but the welcome I received was heart warming. My few hours there left an indelible impression on me for a number of reasons. As a survivor of breast cancer, I have been fortified by my friends and fellow survivors over the years and always felt blessed that as women we are able to talk things out with each other. I have often wondered about the plight of men in a similar position.
I was struck firstly by the amount of humour and camaraderie in the room. At first I was concerned that this was only to mask what was really going on for these men, but this was clearly not the case. Whilst they shared some humorous stories, which included the experiences of purchasing incontinence pads, there was opportunity to share what was really going on for each person.
As the meeting progressed it was clear that each man was living a different experience depending on what stage their cancer had progressed. One older man is very crippled, as the disease has spread to his bones, but he still delights in pursuing his art. Another who had overcome some pretty horrendous treatments stood tall and talked about the many positive activities that he continued to fill his life. These included outback tours and water sports. His face beamed as he attributed his unexpected longevity to his attitude and proclaimed, “Life is for living!”
These men were from all walks of life yet united in their quest to support each other through what is often a treatable disease. The myths were stripped away and all forms of treatments were discussed from the traditional to other forms of alternate remedies, all with open communication about what was available; who might be the best reference; what information was included in the vast library of books to borrow. We selected a book which I would heartily recommend called, Anticancer – A new way of life by David Servan-Schreiber, which my friend is finding helpful. Having trod a less traditional path of treatment in my second experience with the big C, I have been so grateful to find what has worked for me and so when they asked me to comment about my experience with the group, I found myself moved to tears as I applauded the group and the support and information each person shares.
I was sorry that I was not staying long enough to share some of the fun activities they were planning with wives and friends and hope to connect with them again. As I left the room with my friend, I could hear the pleasant thrum of conversation. There was not one hint of misery or self pity and I couldn’t help thinking that after all laughter is the best medicine.
Do you think laughter is the best medicine? When has laughter helped you when you or your loved one were sick? Share your uplifting stories below.