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Becky Olson: Humor Is Important To Breast Cancer Survival

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine.” But how many of us have truly experienced what this means?

When I went through breast cancer the first time, I was devastated by pretty much every aspect of the disease and all it meant. Losing my breast, my estrogen, and my hair were tough to deal with. I suffered hot flashes, and my sensuality and self-esteem were quickly going down into the abyss. I felt ugly and hated how people stared at me in public. The scarf over the bald head was a sure sign that I had cancer. I couldn’t hide it. One time in a restaurant, a lady seated at a table with her friend said out loud, “That poor thing! I bet she has cancer.” I wanted to go home and hide. In fact I made a vow that I would not go out in public again until my hair grew back. I had nine months of chemo to face, which meant I would be home a very long time.

Then, one day a good friend of mine brought me a special gift that changed my life forever. It was a crazy little baseball cap with stick figures of bald headed people and the verbiage, “No Hair Day,” across the front. I saw the humor in it instantly. I ran into the bathroom, took the scarf off my head and placed the hat in its place. For the first time, I smiled back at the reflection in the mirror.

That hat, that day, brought back something I had forgotten. It brought laughter back into my life. I had gotten so deep into the gloom of my circumstances that I forgot about having fun. Breast cancer isn’t funny, but there are funny moments. We need to find ways to embrace those moments and cherish them.

As a friend or family member of someone going through breast cancer, try to help your loved one by finding ways to help her laugh. Here are a few ideas:

• If the patient knows her hair will fall out from chemo, buy a box of hair dye and color her hair some crazy color she has always wanted to try. She’ll only have it for a short time, so if it fails, or looks terrible, no real worries, it’ll be gone in a week or so anyway.

• Go shopping for a wig – the brighter the color the better. Try on spikes or a Mohawk. Maybe glue on some temporary “tattoos” and take lots of pictures.

• Enjoy the fact that when your hair falls out, it usually ALL falls out. No more shaving legs, plucking eyebrows or any other facial hair. Be careful though and watch for re-growth. It can catch you totally off guard. Mine grew back and I had 1 inch long curly peach fuzz on the side of my face. I didn’t notice this until I saw it in a silhouette reflection in a window. Yikes!!

• Drop by with a funny movie and watch it together, or go to a comedy show.

You get the idea. Find some way to laugh together. Laughter releases endorphins that provide a sense of well-being. And you never know, these funny moments just might give you great speech fodder should you ever decide to become a professional speaker.

Becky Olson is a professional keynote speaker and author. Her inspiration comes from her experience as a two-time breast cancer survivor and co-founder of a successful non-profit, Breast Friends in Oregon. Becky left her career in sales and sales management to pursue her dream of speaking and writing. He book, "The Hat That Saved My Life," was first published in 2004. Becky now travels all over the country sharing hope and inspiration to women suffering through the same disease that one time threatened her life.

Visit Becky at her websites:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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