One day in the hospital, this mischievous and funny and loud child came out of me. Because I got bored.
“Not allowing fear to cover up my playful heart.”– Jim Carrey
A Jim Carrey speech and his words about not allowing fear to cover up my playful heart is what made me do it. That speech and those words inspired me to find my joy, no matter what, no matter how I was feeling, no matter my circumstances. So I was in a “What Would Jim Carrey Do?” moment.
Let’s back up a bit. I was in the middle of dealing with breast cancer.
I was on my second surgery, this one to take out some lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread into my system any further.
Joking My Way Through It
WWJCD (What Would Jim Carrey Do?) became something I’d say to myself whenever I began to go down a negative pathway in my thoughts and emotions during this time. And it helped. That phrase I created, with it’s irreverent humor and reminder of his speech, often was enough to pull me up into at least a smile, if not a downright chuckle.
So there I was all prepped for the surgery when they wheeled me down to radiology and, with a rather large needle, put some radioactive material into my lymph system through my breast area so they could track where the lymph nodes are. Not a pleasant experience, by the way. But as usual I just joked my way through it. The joking helps me deal with the pain. I have found there are some nurses and doctors who joke right back, such as thankfully my surgeon, who is amazing.
However, in this case the nurse administering this particular phase of the journey was all frowns with a “you have cancer, you’re having surgery, you should be serious” attitude. Which of course just made me make even more jokes.
(I was trying to convince her I was going to attempt to walk into a federal building the next week to see if the alarms really would go off with this radioactive crap in my bloodstream. That’s what they’d told me it’d do, anyway. Figured I should test it.)
When they were done and ready to wheel me back into surgery, she stuck me back in that wheelchair in some main hallway and left me there waiting for the “transport technician” (translate: big muscled weightlifter dude who can push someone in a wheelchair even if they’re like 500 pounds).
So here are all these doctors and nurses and even other patients passing me by, and there I am in nothing but a teeny little light blanket, hospital socks, and hospital gown with back wide open, with this IV sticking in my arm, bored, feeling like a number. Next to me is a blank whiteboard and a blue marker. I look at the whiteboard for a minute. I look around. Everyone is ignoring me. I look at the marker.
The next thing I know I’m drawing flowers and writing “Cancer Suck” on it. It was supposed to be “Cancer Sucks” with an “s” but I was caught before I could finish, and they took away the blue marker. It annoyed me that it made me look uneducated. Plus I’m pretty sure they erased it.
This got me in trouble.
I was moved further up the hallway, away from the whiteboard.
So now I’m against a hallway wall with a rail on it. Nothing nearby for me to touch or distract myself with. I wait a few more minutes, but still no “transport technician.” So I start pushing myself along the hallway with my feet and one hand on the rail, backward. Maybe I can get myself back to surgery or meet this tech on the way.
I see there is a door across the hall behind me to the nurses break room. I push myself backwards with my feet into view of the breakroom, then pull myself forward back out of view with my one arm. Backward, I look in at them, forward, out of view. Backward in view, forward out. Backward, forward, backward, forward. Testing to see how long it takes someone to notice. But they were all too busy with their lunches.
I was only trying to make them laugh
So then, with one mighty thrust of my feet, I launch myself all the way across their view, sweeping past the door in a rush of fun. I turn around the wheelchair, and with another foot shove, head back past the breakroom going the other way, looking in at them as my wheelchair swishes by.
I do this twice. It was actually kind of fun, riding in the wheelchair as it whizzed past the door, looking in at the nurses and smiling as I zoomed by.
Finally one of the nurses saw me on my second full pass as I swept by smiling at her.
She dropped her lunch to run out and scold me, stopping my ride of freedom while telling me it was dangerous and they’d be coming to get me soon. She then wheeled me into another little side area where I couldn’t touch anything, and put on my brakes firmly so I couldn’t move. I’m pretty sure I pissed her off. Possibly rightly so. But I was only trying to make them laugh.
A minute later the radiologist nurse came out to check on me, asking me if I’d like a magazine or something. I guess I was really in trouble now. Obviously the other nurse had told on me. There were lots of frowns over how I wasn’t taking this whole cancer thing seriously enough.
But just then the young and muscular “transport tech” arrived to wheel me back to pre-op for my surgery. As he wheeled me away, I told him what happened, and how they didn’t seem to approve when I made jokes. “But if I can’t laugh at my own cancer,” I said, perhaps a bit nonsensically; “what the hell can I laugh at?”
If I can’t laugh at my cancer, what can I laugh at, indeed?
Laughter is, indeed, the very best medicine.
In that moment, you see, I needed to be able to laugh. I needed to have others laugh with me. I was going in for my second surgery, the one where I was to find out if this thing had gotten into my entire system. The one that was going to tell me if I needed chemo and/or radiation or not. The one which was going to change my future with the results, no matter what. Right then, what was required for me, was a bit of levity to lighten the situation and help me deal with it.
And then this angel of a transport tech laughed with me, when I needed it most.
He said to me; “Y’know, they don’t tell you this, but going to surgery is really like going to prison: they have complete control over all of your actions, and you get in trouble if you do anything fun.” Which made me laugh even more, for it’s exactly what I was thinking.
As he transferred me back onto the surgery bed, he said he’d pop a wheelie in the chair for me on his way back to radiology. I hope he did. He was a cool dude.
So that’s how I passed my time before heading in to surgery. It made me happy. While it wasn’t the end of my cancer journey, it was a turning point that helped me through it. For it made me realize that laughter is, indeed, the very best medicine there is in this world.
My mischievous inner child agrees. As, I assume, does Jim Carrey.
(To whom I give my deepest thanks for unknowingly helping me, even in the middle of cancer, find my playful heart again. WWJCD.)
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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Laughter is, indeed, the best medicine! So related to your story. Yes – let’s enjoy life to the fullest and give it all we have! Thanks for keeping the rest of us aware of really living life, not just existing.
Thank you for recognizing the message of this story and embracing it into yourself, Margie!
What a great perspective on facing fear and adversity. Thank you!