The Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center at Montefiore Hospital hosted a hilarity session for the cancer patients, some even with advanced stages of the illness. Fox News published an article in November of 2008, revealing the results of humor on the cancer patients.
This was the hospital’s monthly “Strength Through Laughter” therapy. This is only one of several types of laughter or humor therapies being offered by medical facilities around the country for patient diagnosed with cancer or other chronic diseases. These programs all feature joke sessions, funny movies and even clown appearances. They are still waiting on a verdict on whether laughter plays a roll in healing, according to the American Cancer Society and other medical experts, but they say it does reduce stress and promotes relaxation by lowering the patients’ blood pressure, improving breathing and increasing muscle function.
About two dozen patients at the hospital even arrived in costume to “spook cancer” one day before Halloween. A breast cancer patient now in remission reported that the session makes her feel better. Incidentally, she came disguised as a security officer and said she felt healthy when she laughed. A warmth was generated among the group by the laughs that was palpable, particularly when this same lady changed into an angel costume and went around offering a red rose and a hug or kiss to each of the other participants. This woman truly is an angel!
The senior oncology social worker and facilitator, Gloria Nelson, started the session five years previous to help cancer patients focus on living, instead of dying. She also reported on their amazing strength even though it’s a constant challenge of the fear of it coming back, and how to go on living knowing you have cancer. Each time they laughed, it was like kicking cancer right out the door, while taking control themselves.
Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday review wrote in his book “Anatomy of an illness”, claiming that a combination of laughter and vitamins cured him of a potentially fatal illness. He made a discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect. Some people are so overwhelmed with their diagnosis that they are unable to participate in laughter and other complementary therapies, even though they can help to relieve the anxiety brought on by the disease.
Some patients practice laughter sounds like “he-he, ha-ha and ho-ho”, and greet each other in this regard in lieu of jokes, and engage in games until laughter overtakes them.
A big challenge of being diagnosed with cancer is preserving your dignity. Especially when told to don a gown where the back half is missing and everyone’s examining you and asking about bodily functions.
The Rx Laughter’s participation in two of the large medical studies discovered that patients who watched funny videos during certain painful procedures were more relaxed and tolerated the pain longer. Cancer patients also had less pain and slept better after such entertainment. Any comic entertainment can get us through very stressful times and save us the cost of psychotherapy that many people cannot afford. Maybe we all need to use this humor activity to lessen the stress in our own everyday lives.
–Dr Fredda Branyon<