Cancer Can’t Take A Joke

Several years ago, my sister was diagnosed with cancer—Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If ever there was a time to vehemently deny the title of this blog and the notion that Life Is Funny (even when it’s not), it was at this moment. Life wasn’t funny and I didn’t think it ever would be again. I was devastated by her diagnosis.

It was my closest dealing with the c-monster and I was terrified of the unknown and heartbroken that it was her—my very own sister—who was stricken with the unpredictable and vengeful disease.

I wasn’t even living in the same state as her when the cancer was detected, so my first step was to come home for a few weeks while she endured a battery of tests to better categorize her diagnosis and confirm its stage of progression.

My mom also came down to stay with us, and during one of the first nights the three of us spent together, my mom and I prepared my sister a nice, huge dose of delicious barium. She had to drink an obscene amount of it for a scan she was undergoing the next day.

It looked like a jug of milk—and by jug of milk, I mean jug of wet chalk. We were a bit apprehensive about presenting it to her because we knew she’d be put off by the smell and by the fact that it probably tasted like emulsified drywall.

We found her cozied up in bed, watching Frasier, when we entered her room bearing gifts. She sat up and situated her pillows just right and pulled her long, blonde hair in a ponytail before reaching for the milky delight.

We stared, unsure, as she stuck the fat straw down in the bottle and smirked through a deep breath. She then went into some kind of freak mode and drained the barium like it was a keg of her favorite college beer. She didn’t stop ONCE—even held up her finger, as if to say, “Hold up. Lemme get this last drop.”

She handed the empty container back to my mom and opened her mouth for a well-deserved (albeit disgusting, man-like) burp and then flung herself onto her side, laughing heartily at our shocked and delighted reactions.

such a champ
such a champ

We all laughed … and laughed.

The next day, she underwent an extensive scan that was virtually painless, aside from the fact that she had to lay still for an unacceptable amount of time, ignoring intense itches and numb or tingling extremities. One wrong move and she’d have to repeat the entire process—and since the barium wasn’t actually Keystone Light—she soldiered on and plowed through.

Later, she was scheduled for a bone marrow extraction. For those of you familiar with this test, I’m sorry. For those of you unfamiliar with it, I hope you stay that way. For reasons unknown, they didn’t put her out or under for it, which I found out later, they often do.

My mom and I were sitting in the room as nurses came in with prepping trays. The loose plan was for my mom to stand by the bed with her, while I sat in the chair at her feet. But when they uncovered the tray and my mom saw the instruments, she motioned for me to take her place, as she sought refuge just outside the windowed door.

I then stood next to my sister’s head and held her hand, while proceeding to talk non-freaking-stop as they extracted bone marrow from deep in her hip bone—WHILE SHE WAS AWAKE.

Side Note: There is really no way to describe what it’s like to watch this procedure at all, let alone when it’s on someone you love dearly.

She squeezed my hand hard enough to break my precious baby bones, while I said, “Your butt looks really good at this angle. I think you’d be real happy with both its contour and finish.” She nodded her head like, “Go on … tell me more.”

I said, “I know you wanted Moma in here with you, but you need to know something—she’s a fainter. She’d be face down, scrounging for smelling salts, unable to tell you how good your ass looks while they stick you with the same syringe I’d use to inject garlic butter into a deep-fried turkey. I’m telling you, even if she somehow escaped a first-round blackout, she’d see what Dr. Awasthi is using now and be all, ‘Say Doc, why do you have a meat thermometer on that tray? Oh what pretty stars I see!’ … TIMBERRRRR!”

I don’t know how, but she laughed … and I laughed.

And then I saw my mom looking horrified through the vertical window like, “Why are you laughing?!?!!!” … and we laughed harder.

And then I just wanted to climb on the table and scoop my sister into my arms, because I’d never witnessed such resolute courage in all my life.

Days passed and a prognosis was given and treatments were planned—six months of intravenous chemo, several days a week, for a few hours at a time.

chemococktail

One of the nights she was feeling especially yucky, I wasn’t sure what to do. I mean really, how do you make someone who’s nauseous and weak feel better?

Oh, I know. You—a bit of a tomboy—go into her closet and put on the most hookerish, girliest clothes and highest heels you can find and you crank up “So Fresh and So Clean” by Outkast and execute a runway show for the ages. Multiple outfits, struts, turns, hair flips and a general disregard for self-respect.

Nausea will never beat indignity in hand-to-hand battle.

her awesome laugh
her awesome laugh

I went to many, many chemo sessions with her and we fell into somewhat of a routine. We’d get to the oncology clinic and wait on them to call her back. We’d claim the best station we could find and set up shop. She’d get settled in, while the nurses came over to impale her with IVs and situate the chemo IV tree next to her reclining chair.

As soon as her drip was underway, I’d run over to Sonic and get us large drinks and cheese tater tots.

It became a bit of a running joke that I took everything way harder than she did. (Have I mentioned that she’s a strong free spirit and I’m … you know … NOT?)

Every time we walked through the clinic’s doors, I’d get nauseous and uneasy. Instantly. Every single time.

Side Note: My capacity for sympathy pain is unrivaled. I even gained five pounds during her pregnancy and feel certain my periodic hip pain is residual sympathy from her bone marrow aspirations.

I’d often need soothing after particularly traumatic IV mishaps. It was not uncommon for them to mis-stick her several times before getting a good vein, then looking over at me and asking if I was alright. My sister would squeeze my forearm and search my eyes, “You good? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Even on a good sticking day, I’d just hold my breath until they found purchase, then I’d put my hand up and let everyone know I was OK. This cracked her up.

one of the bad IV days
one of the bad IV days

We made the trip so many times—for check-ups, chemo, blood work, and scans. It was a good 30-40 minute drive and no matter what, I simply could not get the directions right. Normally, she’d drive, so I was fine—we’d just blast Lady Marmalade or Destiny Child’s Survivor and sing like lunatics. But the times I did drive, I’d just cringe when we got to the confusing exchanges, feeling uncertain about my internal compass. She was forever gracious in sensing my hesitation and pointing me in the right direction.

Every single trip, we passed the same huge amusement park with the worst-looking death appliance you’ve ever seen (some people call them rollercoasters). I’d aggressively turn my head away from it until we passed. My stomach was already fragile and compromised from being so close to the oncology center—I couldn’t very well look at a mobile execution chair horrendous rollercoaster, too.

I’d keep my head turned away and wait on her to tell me it was behind us, then relax back into my position before coming nearly FACE TO FACE with it. She’d LIED to me again. You’d think that trickery would lose its luster, but no, she’d laugh every time. Cancer patients can be cruel.

They can also be extremely manipulative.

I could never say no to anything without a head-tilt and, “But I’ve got cancer” reply.

“Sis, no, you can’t eat cold ravioli out of the can.”
“But I’ve got cancer coursing through my body.”

“No way. We’re not sneaking into a second movie. It’s called theft—NO.”
“But it’s what my cancer wants and I might be on borrowed time.”

don't be fooled by her beautifully contemplative look here—she's just scheming new ways to mess with me
don’t be fooled by her beautifully contemplative look here—she’s just scheming new ways to mess with me

One day we were driving back towards home after a scan, where they’d injected her with a ridiculous amount of contrast material. We were riding along on a pleasant day, just listening to music, when she immediately gripped the steering wheel at 10 and 2, and sat straight up.

Her: Oh.
Me: What?
Her: Uh-oh.
Me: WHAT?
Her: I’m gonna shit my pants.
Me: No you’re not!
Her: I’m prrrrrrretty sure I’m gonna shit my pants.
Me: Shut up! You are not!
Her: YEP, reeeeeally gonna shit my pants.
Me: You are NOT going to SHIT YOUR PANTS.
(then she paused, got really still, as if deep in thought, and then held up her index finger to confirm)
Her: Yep, definitely going to shit my pants.

You’ll be pleased to know she did not, in fact, “shit her pants.” But once she determined the threat had vanished (and I want to iterate that we dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s), we flip-laughed and heave-laughed and pushed-each-other-laughed until we were absolutely spent.

The way she’d announced—so straightforward and business-like—her realization of imminent danger is something that still makes me laugh out loud to this day.

She fought cancer like a champ and kicked it to the curb for nearly six years. When it reared its despicable head again, we cried and cried. We even cried all the way through her second bone marrow extraction, not even pretending to be tough. And when she received her second “six months of chemo” game plan, we left the appointment and parted ways after a long and extremely sad hug.

Then I did what any sister would do. I, who can’t even tolerate Tylenol PM and have never successfully inhaled helium from a balloon, sent her a text:

mj

And we laughed.

We also prayed.

And she kicked its sorry ass again.

So yeah … in life, there will be times of hardship, times of endless tears and times of sincere doubt and dreadful worry—but I still believe that with the right outlook, with a faith that dares to be shaken and with a bit of twisted humor—Life is Funny (even when it’s not).

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook and Twitter … it’s good for your health.

0 thoughts on “Cancer Can’t Take A Joke

  1. You have got to be the best. sister. ever.

    What an amazing take on this issue. I can’t wait to share your story with a few of my friends, they’re also going to love your approach to a really not funny experience. I just love it! Way to be!

  2. Ab-so-lutely love this one! It hit home on so many points for me.

    Mom too is a big c survivor (from the same type as your sweet sis since 1986) with many scares over the years. And unfortunately, a new one this past summer. But with a positive attitude, unshakable faith and of course, humor, we’ve all managed to get through it.

    I can’t wait to share this with Mom. I feel certain she’ll laugh as much as I did! 🙂

    1. Jana, your family has had way too much of this monster, huh? I know you relate fully and completely. Always hoping for all the best with your mom. Thanks for always being a part of my blog!

      1. Thanks Anna, you have no idea. There’s an inner strength to be envied among survivors of the c monster. I know Mom has it and there’s no doubt Jeni has it.

        Such a beautiful prospective on a tough time for your sweet family. Thanks again for sharing. It’s truly a work of art! 🙂

  3. Just. Amazing. So so much goodness here! I love all of it and think you and your sis are pretty damn kick ass! Speaking of ass, ” I think you’d be real happy with both its contour and finish.” made me fall out:)

  4. My mom was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin’s 8 years ago, when my youngest turned 1. I was long distance, but I went back to help her with getting second opinions and deciding on a treatment protocol, which included Rituxan – and she hates it! After a year of R and chemo, she kicked it for 6 years. In 2012 it came back with a furry, but once again she kicked it. She’s in a waiting period for 2 months to make sure she is strong enough to take the maintenance Rituxan. The PET scans and bone marrow extraction (not sedated) where rough on her too. Thank God they both kicked it twice and we have them to share our lives together, especially so my boys can spend time with her while they’re growing up. She’s coming to Dallas for a week at Thanksgiving and attending grandparents day at Garrett’s school! Thank you for sharing and helping all of us to not feel so alone in all of this awful C stuff.

  5. I was that way when they told me of my cancer earlier this year. After I found out it wasn’t going to kill me I was relieved…to say the least.At that point it was nothing but a joke.. I mean, I literally had a dozen jokes, including th day of my treatment. Laughing was my best way of coping with the unknown. It IS the best medicine! Bravo to you and your sister! I hope she is doing good.
    Here is a ‘sample’ of some c-word humor. You will see what I mean. The folowing post was almost as funny as your great posts! http://ourlifein3d.com/2013/09/12/im-immortal-and-other-eye-popping-news/

  6. LOVE this in so many ways!! I both laughed out loud and cried while reading it . Great, great stuff, especially coming from a family that has seen the dreaded C-monster first hand. And I think we share some added symmetry in the “sympathy pains” department! I feel faint just thinking about certain floors at the hospital I’ve visited lol! Awesome post 🙂

    1. You’re the only one who consistently goes toe to toe with me on sympathy pains. We’re like sympathy pain super heroes and should wear capes, T. And I know you remember the near-shitting story back when it happened! I do believe it promoted more near-miss stories and had us falling OUT 🙂

  7. Anna West!! I feel like I’m gonna bawl my eyeballs right outta my head! This is (all at the same time) hysterical, inspiring, heartwarming and heartbreaking. You girls are tough stuff and so lucky to have each other. I love the way you share life through your thoughts and words 🙂

  8. This is amazing and I”m tearing up because I have a sister only a year and a half younger than me and it’s truly a special bond. i can’t imagine watching her go through all this. What a blessing to be able to laugh during those shitty times! you two are hilarious and lovely.

  9. First of all, tears are in my eyes. If ever I get cancer I’m taking you to EVERY treatment!
    There is no love like the love of a sister. I love you girls.

  10. I never imagined laughing while the world reads of the time I almost shat myself…but here I am, laughing – just like we did through the whole ordeal. You make everything better, Anna. Everything! I love you very much!

  11. I honestly cannot share this with enough people. I don’t know you but I am crying at my desk at work– if someone walks in I’m going to have to fake a personal tragedy or something. This was so so so sad and hopeful and well written. Agh.

  12. I’m crying and laughing all at once. Your voice is so poignant and touching…and then hilarious as always. You and you sister sound like people I would want to have in my corner…that’s for sure. This might be one of my favorite posts of yours. It’s obvious from its beauty that you wrote it about a beautiful person, and your relationship is so tangible. Way to knock this one out of the park, Anna…and happy your sister was able to knock out the C-word times two!

    1. You’re too dang sweet. Thank you, Kelly. My iPhone tried to call you jelly btw. I appreciate you sharing my post and always being so abundantly supportive! 🙂

  13. I have to admit, I teared up through most of this!! Such an awesome, straight-forward story and I am soooooo glad I know you both! Love and hugs!!!!!

  14. Yep, those are my two daughters! Brave, goofy, beautiful, goofy, wonderful, and goofy. You got that from your mother. I have always been proud to be in the company of three such wonderful (and goofy) women. You make life bearable.

    1. They really are goofy, huh? We’ve always thought they were, haven’t we? It’s weird, I was noticing how many times you said “goofy” above and how few times you said “beautiful” … kinda odd. Just an observation. I bet you could edit your comment if you wanted. Just thinking out loud here. 😉 ILY

  15. We lost my Dad to the same type of cancer in June of 2011. I could never have imagined that I would find a reason to laugh about anything to do with (as you call it) the c-monster. I laughed and I cried while reading this. I had no idea that Jeni had gone through this but I am so glad she kicked its butt! Twice! Such a great story. Hope that monster never rears its ugly head again! Thanks for the laughs and tears 🙂

    1. Hey Jana—I’m so sorry about your dad 🙁 I didn’t know. Here’s to never hangin’ with the c-monster again. He’s super lame company. Hey, thank you for reading and letting me know 🙂

  16. Anna…I laughed but I cried more. I love your precious sister more than life itself. And I love you for showing us the true meaning of sisters. How lucky you two are.

    1. The laugh-cry combo isn’t that cute, Amy … sorry to cause you a distress that makes you ugly cry. Honestly, THANK YOU so much for your comment and for loving my sister 🙂

  17. Oh my goodness … this post! Stunning. Amazing. Heartfelt. Heartbreaking. Wise … and simply wonderful. Sending mega doses of love! xoxoxo

  18. I can’t really say anything that hasn’t already been said. What you’ve done here is take a serious subject, and show the less clinical side of it. Allowing us into that experience is something I really respect.

  19. My sister was also diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s cancer. It’s a tough disease to combat. All that chemo and the alternative medicines and hope. It takes a lot of bravery to help someone go through the Big C and I think you held a magnificent fort with your sister. In the end, laughter might be the best medicine.

  20. This is one of the best blogs I have ever read!! I had a very close aunt that your sister really reminds me of, and I find it strange that I find this blog, on the eve of the anniversary 3 years after her death, from cancer. Well done for the big fight and absolutely poignant view towards life and the big c-you and your sister absolutely rock!!! X

  21. I read this with my heart in my mouth. I have seen my two year old grandson go through it. That is right, two. He was seen by the only doctor in the country willing to take the case. Dr. Finley in New York City. I blogged on it. Cancer and the Miracle, for after five chemos and stem cell he survived. He is now thirteen and except for one huge scar in the back of his neck covered by his hair you would not have a clue. It was the most heartbreaking events of my life, my wife still has nightmares and the kids, they do not talk about it. Cancer is not funny. You laugh because you can not cry any more. The best of luck. Barry

      1. He is doing great at Berkley Prep in Tampa. The brain is a marvelous devise. It is capable of rebooting itself even when some of it is removed. He is now playing baseball and participates in other sports. The only thing is he gets a little tired every once in a while. But he is a great kid.

  22. A friends of mine that I am sencerely close to has cancer and we try to have the same outlook you and your sister did. We try not to see it as something bad, but more as a life lesson that we should handle with laughter and good times. Even if the times are not so good. My friend always says that the cancer was more of a blessing than anything because it shows how strong you are as a person and proves to you who are your true friends. Your story is so inspiring and a great lesson for other people who may be in similar situations. They alwasy say Laughter is the best medicine and I believe you proved that with this story. Best of luck to you and your family and God bless.

  23. So glad your sister pulled through.. again and again! I agree with Blog Woman who left the first comment – you must get the world’s best sibling award or something… what an amazing support! The strength of your bond shows through in every heart-wrenching, perfectly written line. Whilst you cant “will” cancer away with positive thoughts and battle – talk, they do say laughter is the best medicine! Thanks for sharing your story!

  24. You are such a great sister. I bet she couldn’t have kicked Cancers ass without you! Oh and I know how your sister feels with the dang IV’s.. I was rushed to the ER after allergic reactions to shots and they couldn’t find my veins EIGHT times. I repeat, EIGHT TIMES. Seriously? Ouch. Oh and bruises.
    This post is inspiring and makes me realize how life is so precious. Take care.

  25. Your sister is a lucky girl to have you (and you her!) My mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 31 years ago. She has been at every stage along the way and beat it every time. She even outlived her oncologist! I swear it was her positive attitude that made all the difference!

    Lovely post! Congrats on the freshly pressed!

  26. What a beautiful post. You sound like you have an awesome sister. I’m so happy that this story turned out well. You had me sort of on the edge of my seat wondering if this was going to have one of those sad endings. I loved the little bit about crapping pants.

  27. I love this post. My mum was first diagnosed with cancer when I was around 12 and through her 3 recurrences cancer was often a topic for a joke in our family. I can totally relate to your experiences. Laughter was a great coping mechanism for us. Sadly, my mum died of her cancer about a year ago – 6 years after her original diagnosis. But right up until the end she would say the funniest things about cancer and hospitals. Fond memories for sure.

    1. Wow. I’m really sorry … so sorry. But thank you for telling me about all the laughter and jokes, etc. It really helps and kinda seems like the ONLY way to make everything tolerable, huh? Thank you again 🙂

  28. I was laughing and crying at the same time. I absolutely love this, you are awesome. Not sure if I could have found laughter in such circumstances, as you did!

  29. This is my favorite of all the Freshly Pressed’s I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I am sure everyone that took the time to read it was as touched as I.

  30. Fantastic. When I first read the title, I thought that the post would be something humorous and satirical , but it was so opposite. Loved the way you wrote it. Certainly, the best sister ever award goes to you. *applause*

  31. Love your outlook! That is such a wonderful thing to have. My mom had cancer, and while unfortunately passed on, we did share many laughs along the way regardless of her prognosis, because sometimes, that’s all you can do.

  32. You and your sis sound similar to my brother and I. Even though we haven’t dealt with any medical scares I can only begin to imagine how difficult of a roller coaster that must be. I attempt to put myself in that situation and it brings me to tears. So glad she beat it! Goes to show having amazing people in your life to deliver clutch love, laughter and good times despite dealing with the most difficult of trials can not only lift the spirit but also allow us to see each other’s true colors and strengthen those most important of bonds. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  33. By far the best Freshly Pressed I’ve ever read. Great post, very touching and still hilarious. Makes you realize how short life is, and how shorter the time with your loved ones is. Thanks fro sharing this!

  34. You are a wonderful sister! Thank you for sharing this story, it’s encouraging. My father was diagnosed with chronic leukemia and I’ve been heartbroken and terrified myself. You are wonderful people, I wish you and your family health and happiness!

    1. It IS heartbreaking AND terrifying … it just is. Do the best you can and I’ll be cheering y’all on. Try to find the humor when you can. Thank you so much 🙂

  35. Had tears in my eyes when I read about the garlic butter and meat-thermometer … from laughter, of course.
    We call it gallows humour over here (and just read on the online dictionary, that AE and BE call it the same). An art so needed when life seems to fail you. Life sometimes feels most funny when it is not.

  36. Oh I needed this today!. My husband also has had bowel cancer and lymphoma and has just finished 8 months of surgery and chemo. We await a final PET scan in 4 days time. After walking through this with him and laughing and crying too, this weekend I felt just could not laugh or count my blessings anymore. I am afraid and afraid and afraid. and afraid what the next week will bring.

    Thanks for reminding me. to try to laugh.

    Good luck to both your sister and you. Thank you so much for your blogpost.

    Love Denise

    1. Hi Denise—thank you. I’ll be hoping and praying for a GREAT outcome for your husband … the waiting and wondering are AWFUL, I know. I really hope all will be well. Thank you for the thoughtful comment … I’m glad it gave you a little of what you needed—very glad! Take care 🙂

        1. Are you kidding—I can’t tell you how much I appreciate people taking time out of their lives to read what I write … it means so much to me. Thank you! Love from America!

  37. Anna Lea – I’ve sent this on to a friend who is just beginning her battle with the c-monster. Truly inspirational and a beautiful telling. I’m sending virtual hugs to you and your sis. No, I’m not a dirty old man – just a fifty-ish grandmother! Look forward to reading more. Colleen

  38. She is very Blessed to have a sister like you… I lost the father of my daughter to cancer after we had parted for two years. I always wonder what he went through and your story put a lot of things into perspective. I wish he had the love and support that your sister got from you. Unfortunately, he did not make it!!! May His Soul RIP!!!

  39. Life has its way of bringing out the laughter when we think we can’t, and spilling tears when we do not expect them. Hugs to you and your dear sister. Let love and more love be the guiding force of your lives. hugs! And yes, congrats for being Freshly Pressed.

  40. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You are amazing and your sister is so strong and brave – but I’m thinking that it is because you have such a laugh through these desperate times. I was laughing then crying then laughing… Excellent sense of humour and thoroughly appropriate in my opinion! All the best to both of you! “I’m gonna shit my pants”… I nearly peed mine at this!

  41. First time I read thro’ a blog till the end. I really admire the courage your sis had and the love and support you gave her. Suddenly I remember one of my colleagues, who was narrating in tears, about the agony of his teenage daughter, after effects of chemo for c in the stomach.
    We are there with you in prayers and support.
    Wish a win in the second spell also.

  42. Thank you for sharing! My mom is back in chemo again and your comedic way of looking at the situation reminds me of her. She throws parties every time she needs to go in for a session because she says, “If you have to do it, you might as well have fun with it!” Thanks for the reminder to keep smiling and laughing, even when all you want to do is cry.

  43. Lovely lovely piece. Us future docs gotta hear stuff like this more often. I promise to bring a bit of humor into wherever I end up 🙂 P.s. recently wrote about my grandmother beating breast cancer and even just giving diagnosis in general. What advice would you give future physicians after your own experience?

    1. Hi! I love it that you promise to bring the humor when you can, once you’re a real-deal doc. I’d say that’s the best thing you could do. My sister’s oncologist would surprise us from time to time and make EVERYTHING better with a little funny comment or look and it just changed the mood drastically. And the best thing he did was … he’d laugh with us if we got tickled about something … not a LOT, but enough that we could tell he liked it that we were trying to keep a good attitude. Hey, you even CARING enough to ask is a huge step in the right direction. Thank you so much! 🙂

  44. Your discussion between you and your sister in the end made me laugh out loud XD can you imagine what nearby people must of thought you were saying? they probably looked at their own seats lol 😀 stay strong and positive! 🙂

  45. You write beautifully about a really difficult time. Wish I’d had you with me for the nauseous bits, the multiple needle sticks before they found a vein, the horrendous bruising of the arms, the bit where my hair went down the drain… I’m so glad your sister’s OK. She’s lucky to have you, and you are very, very lucky to have her. Both of you, stay well.

    1. Hi Kate … I wish you’d had me, too! I hope you weren’t alone and I hope you’re ok?? I’m sorry you experienced all of that, sigh. Thank you for your nice comment and for taking time to come by 🙂

  46. this is such a beautiful and refreshing post. It makes me think of my Mother, Aunt and Uncle who had to go through the same process and it amazes me how your sister was able to maintain that outlook. The world needs more people like her. Thank you for sharing this, it made me smile like I bet she does for you.

  47. What a beautiful post. and what an amazing human being your sister is! And Kudos to you as well, most of the times the loved one feels equal pain as the one undergoing all the procedures-like you described feeling her pain. I am sure there must have been painful portions of the whole experience but it’s amazing that you chose to dwell on the laughter and happy bits of it!! Thank you for sharing this…!

  48. Such lucky your sister is. You guys r great and I really appreciate u wrote all this motivating stuff so beautifully. I hope ur champ sister will make it nicely again this time.
    In December I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary of Hodgkin lymphoma and probably last dose of chemo and will invite u over only if u guys make sure u’ll control the shit part 😛
    It’s the first ever post I am going to re-blog on “irfan989.wordpress.com”

    Oh and congrats on being freshly pressed!
    Stay blessed and keep making people laugh 🙂

    1. We’ll make sure to control that … or at least I will. You have my word 😉 So happy you’re celebrating an anniversary of health! I hope you have many more, too. Thank you so VERY much for the reblog—I appreciate it more than you know 🙂

  49. What a great story of love between sisters. I went through chemo this past year and it was the laughs shared with family and friends during each round that kept me going. Thank-you so much!

    1. I hope you are OK? I’m happy-happy you and your people were able to laugh, at least a little. Thank you for taking time to come by and read/comment … I appreciate it 🙂

  50. Freshly pressed or not, you and your sister deserves an ovation. As Robert Frost would have put it, she has miles to go before she sleeps.

  51. It is wonderful that you are able to smile and laugh in the face of such a horrible situation. You and your sister share a beautiful bond. I have been at the bedside of a chemo patient, actually I have been right on the bed. My mother battled breast cancer twice. Sadly, my mother was not able to kick it’s ass. Your story does remind me of one light moment right before my mother passed. She had a best friend, Diane, who was the loud & outspoken opposite to my shy reserved mother. While my mother was in ICU, this friend came to visit her. My mother was on a respirator, so she could not speak. Her dear friend held her hand and sat quietly with her for a few moments. Diane started sniffing & I thought she was about to break down. Just as I was expecting to see her cry, she loudly asked “Kim, are you farting under there?”. My mother cracked a huge smile. It was a beautiful smile & the last one I would see but I thank her friend for that moment.

    1. Well, thank you Diane! Way to bring the smiles/laughs with one quick question! I’m happy you can look back and smile … but I’m so sorry for what you went through … twice 🙁 I hope you are OK. Thank you for being here 🙂

  52. I didn’t expect this to be hysterical in the midst of what I thought would be a serious post. I had to check it out though since a friend of mine has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just a couple of months ago. Just curious about what you had to say. SO GLAD I read it.

    Other than the fact that there is cancer in this discussion, I loved everything else about this post! And you and your sister are AWESOME! Made me remember how blessed I am to have my sister! They really are one of the best friends we could ever have.

    Godspeed! – J.C.

    1. Jenny—thank you so much for your sweet comment. I’m happy you decided to read it and ended up enjoying it! I hope you’re able to help your friend in the ways she needs it most and I hope she beats its sorry butt. Thank you so much again 🙂

  53. As someone who lost a sister to cancer, I know the emotional rollercoaster it brings with. I love your approach, and your sister is so blessed to have you in her life! May she continue to kick cancer’s ugly ass!

  54. Such a great story! How is your sister now?

    I totally get the outlook you guys took on cancer – when I had thyroid cancer I did exactly the same thing. I LIKED when people made jokes about it or when people didn’t take the whole thing too seriously! To me it was a way more enjoyable way of people acknowledging what I was going through without having to get all sad about it.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece of writing. x

  55. I loved this so much, I watched my mum battle and beat cancer, it was so tough but like you we managed to kick it in the butt and laugh it off at times. They say laughter is the best medicine! You have inspired me to become an amazing sibling/daughter/friend like you were to your sister. Also well done to her for beating it, she seems like such a brave woman!

  56. This is very touching about family. I’ve recently seen my cousin go through this unfortunately he wasn’t lucky! Check my blog, my stories there! This is amazing. So happy she beat it!

  57. Wow, what a journey you took with your sister…real team work! And you were able to dig deep and find humor even in those dark times. You are so fortunate to have one another! Let’s hope that together you kicked that big C off the map.

  58. Wow, what a journey you took with your sister…real team work! And you were able to dig deep and find humor even in those dark times. You are so fortunate to have one another! Let’s hope that together you kicked that big C off the chart!.

  59. You write so beautifully and you have a very lucky sister…not because of trumping her lymphoma twice, but because she has a sister that loves her so much…by the way, you’re a lucky girl too…
    🙂

  60. That was an amazing story. My sister also stood by my side when I had a bone marrow biopsy (by the way also awake). And sadly I almost lost her last week to a pulmonary embolism but through prayers and family gathering around her she bounced back. Keep tough and don’t ever ever stop loving your sister. That’s what makes life worth living.

    1. Both were surprising to me, too—how strong she was (although I shouldn’t have been surprised) and how hard is can be on the loved ones. None of it is easy … but I’m thankful for the laughter and our answered prayers and her strength and courage 🙂 Thank you for reading!

  61. My sister died of a Brain Tumour about 2.5 years ago and on her first visit to the hospital everyone was obviously very sad about it. Once everyone had left, she gripped my hand and said ‘can you make everyone laugh because they are looking at me like i’m about to die.’ So that’s what I did. I am now a comedian because she made me believe I could be. The only way to fight any horrible thing life has to throw at you is through laughter, she taught me that. I felt compelled to write something as a love for a good sister can only be understood by another sister. Your blog is written beautifully and I wish you both all the best.

  62. I was told I was in remission a few months ago. This was my first cancer, and hopefully my last. I had exactly the same cancer and had to do pretty much everything you listed here. My sister came to see me a few times, and my parents were there every day at hospital to see me. My Mum is a nurse, so was able to sit through the bone marrow extraction. It was pretty horrible. They gave me a lot of drugs so it didn’t hurt a lot, but it was such a horrible feeling and seemed to go on forever. I don’t think people realise how good it is to have someone to laugh and cry with when you are going through something like this. Thanks for sharing this, and I’m glad your sister is well.

    1. I really appreciate your comment. CONGRATS on being in remission! Here’s to staying in remission and never enduring that blasted bone marrow extraction again. Thank you so much! 🙂

  63. Anna, you gave me hope at a time i need it the most. My mum is in advanced stage and we tread each day with care and concern and brave a smile but mums being mums, can see through it. I hope she gets by but what Ive learned from your post is that even if things aren’t going well, laughter and happiness helps.
    Am glad that your sister is good and hope she has kicked Mr. C’s butt well to never ever show up again. Many wishes.

    1. Hi there—you’ll never know how happy it makes me to know I might have helped you even just a little bit. Thank you for telling me. Praying for your mum and you … thank you again 🙂

  64. This post is amazing! I didn’t know if to laugh or cry. I also have a pretty great sis, and if something terrible like this would to happen, I would also stay by her side. Again, truly great post!

  65. Laughter…Love… and the Courage to walk through it… and people that share the stories with honesty for others to learn and grow. thank you for sharing that… thank you for doing that… and for knowing it is all part of our journey as we walk the human…
    Blessings to you and your Sister ~ bear

  66. I absolutely enjoyed that post. Thank you so much and I’m so glad despite everything you both can laugh. It’s important and I think it scares the reaper away that much longer when you laugh in his face and say “Nope. I’m not ready just yet! “

  67. Anna,

    This was a fantastic read and I think what kept me going was that even in times of great sadness, I laughed. Life can be really tough and moments that make it better are when you can laugh about it and find peace. The old saying you laugh to keep from crying is so true. You’re an awesome sister and if I ever had a sister, I would totally want one like you.

    Give your sister a hug and high five for beating cancer twice! That reply also goes out to my aunts, both cancer survivors, and to the memory of my grandparents, one of which died of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

    I’ve decided that the next race I run will for sure be dedicated to helping find a cure.

    Thanks so much for sharing. It was inspiring. 🙂

  68. I can’t thank you enough for sharing. Made my day. What you did for your sister is what my mom did for me. Somewhere between the jabbing, zapping and chemo we found the humor. We laughed and laughed and even snort-laugh-farted all in one. Even had laughing fits (expensive laughing fits) every time I had to get a bone scan at the thought of getting super hot crotch from the contrast injection. Thank you for reminding me that at 33 I have found more joy in life than most ever will, even if was during what could have been the worst time in my life. I wish you and your sister all the best.

    1. This is the greatest comment ever. THANK YOU so much … I’ve read it 5x now. I hope you’re OK and I have to know if you actually GOT hot crotch or just THOUGHT you might … oh why does it matter … it’s hysterical either way. Thank you for the laugh and the sharing!! 🙂 🙂

  69. I’ve had more barium shakes than I care to remember but I’ve never been able to achieve the complete chugging of one. Mad props to your sis. Next barium shake is on me.

  70. What a beautiful post about such a awful topic. I am pleased that your sister has beaten the cancer, both times. Cancer seems to have been a curse in my family throughout my life, although we didn’t lose anyone until last year. Losing two close family members just months apart has made me realise that life is short and you’ve got make the most of it. It’s inspired me to be happy, and take on new challenges. In 2015 I am taking on the Inca Trail Trek to raise funds for my local hospice, who have always been there for my family. My blog (my first ever) is all about my challenge, why I’m doing it and how I’m going about it.

    1. I just visited and followed your blog. Good luck! Thank you for the kind words and I’m really sorry you lost 2 family members recently 🙁 Have fun on your adventure!

  71. I’ve been diagnosed with incurable cancer. It sounds stupid, I know, but I am so jelous of your sister. This is what family is supposed to be like. I have my daughter, and she’s a real trouper and always there for me, but I still feel so alone in this.

  72. Yeah, as I said to my dad on his death-bed – “life is too serious not to laugh about it”. He smiled at that, it was the first time he did for a long time. Keep on making the jokes, keep on laughing, remember joy and sadness are the same thing, you can;t have one without the other.
    “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight” – K Gibran quote. . Tony

  73. My husband is great and very supportive but funny and able to joke about my cancer..not so much. Everyone seems to think I am crazy when I try to make jokes… I wish my family was closer sometimes because they do find a way to make me laugh when things are tough. I am so glad your sister has a sister like you to help get her through the tough times.
    I was never put out for a bone marrow biopsy… I have had two. I am in remission and plan to stay that way for a very long time.
    Blessings to you and your family.

    1. Remission!!! Congratulations! I’ve had lots of comments where people also weren’t put out for the bone marrow extraction—YIKES. I think it would be incredible TOUGH to find humor and laughter with a spouse/better half. I’m so glad you’re in a good place! Thank you for coming by 🙂

  74. This was so enjoyable to read, and your sister is incredibly lucky to have you. Being in remission for the past year from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I can’t honestly believe that I went through all that. But I hope all is well with your sister now despite the recurrence. I’ll definitely be thinking of you guys the next time I run with Team In Training and most definitely in a few weeks when I have to go drink my nasty chalk-water for follow up scans too! (and yes, the bone marrow extraction blows manholes but thank goodness for Lidocaine and local anesthesia!)

  75. I seriously enjoyed reading this post and had to join in congratulating you and your sister! Well done! I was a little hesitant to read this post at first because cancer has taken 5 people from me in the past 5 years but I have to admit it made me smile. Usually when I think of it I dwell on the bad but all I could think of in this post was when they had to remove my grandmothers breast, and instead of getting down about it she found joy showing everyone who would look what it looked like now that it was gone. Many times I had to warn my friends (and even an ex-boyfriend!) that my grandma had a tendency to “flash people!” She especially liked to pass her new boob around the room so everyone could feel what it felt like. Thanks for bringing the good memories back to me. 🙂

    1. How AWESOME was your Grandmother?! I’d have liked her. I’m sorry for all your losses … that’s a tough run 🙁 I’m so happy I brought back some good memories … that makes my day 🙂

  76. Hi Anna Lea … I happened across your post today by accident and wanted to say thank you for the great insight into the importance of laughter in times such as this. My wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and with her personal journey just beginning, I recently reactivated my own personal blog that I had originally started what seems like forever ago now. I have found solace in writing about the experience, and it is a good way for us to let family that is spread far and wide stay informed as to her progress. We both realize that there are many challenges that lie ahead now, and your words spoke to me loud and clear about the importance of being there. Thank you.

    1. I love that you accidentally happened upon my post today and that it helped you in some way. That’s a blessing! What I don’t love is that I’d written you a response and then a storm came through and I had to reset my router … and lost it. I wanted to say that I’m sorry about your wife and while it won’t be a lot of fun … there will be wonderful moments as she fights and beats this. You just have to find them and/or allow them. I followed your blog—thanks for letting me know about it. I’m beyond thankful that my words spoke to you … it really makes me happier than you know. Here’s to being awed by the courage your wife is about to show you and you two finding ways to laugh, when you can, along the way. Thank you again.

      1. It seems that your post has spawned some serendipitous moments for a few people this evening along with me. Nothing better than a happy accident when you least expect it, which is obviously what your post has provided for myself and others. And thanks for following, it’s nice to stick together in times such as these with people who have experienced some of the same things and are willing to share. Take care, Anna Lea.

  77. I clicked this post accidentally … and then started reading it.
    Loved every bit of it.
    Sometimes we really don’t know our strength and what exactly are we capable of, until hurdles like these arrive and strike your head.
    Followed your blog 🙂

  78. Love it – thank you for making me smile. Dad just started chemo and radiotherapy and I stumbled on your article by chance. You is funny laydee 🙂

    1. Well however you got here, I’m glad you did! I hope you’ll stick around/click around for some less serious laughs … thank you! 🙂 And I really hope your dad is OK.

  79. Reading this had so many conflicting effects on me – from the chills and goosebumps to the smiles and laughter. I cannot really find the words to describe how purely awesome and inspiring this story is.

  80. Wanted to throw my hat in to echo my appreciation like that of other commenters. Your sister has quite a few cheerleaders, and you, her sister, carries the megaphone. Rah, rah!

  81. I had a disease, GBS right 2 months after my marriage. I was bed ridden, hands and legs could just move but couldn’t lift them up, one side of the face not working( couldn’t even move my right brow, which was kind of funny). But that was the time I lived my life fully. I ate whatever I wanted to, and the same dialogue as your sister’s ” but I have GBS!!!” Every time someone denied me of something. I even went to movies and restaurants ( though my husband had to help me walking all the time), what can you expect? I was just married!!!
    You could read about it here if you would like to.
    http://chinkslounge.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/love-in-my-worst-times/

    Sorry for the long comment but your post reminded of my situation. When God plays His tricks, he also gives the mind to get them or at least bear them boldly.
    Kudos to your sister.

    1. Wow, that’s kinda awful—and what crappy timing! I’m sorry … but it sounds like you handled it really well. I hope you are OK and all better now? Thank you so much 🙂

  82. Thank you for finding the humor in such a serious disease. And you and your sister are so lucky to have each other; having someone to lean on and laugh and cry with is so important in times like this. Blessings to you both.

  83. My mom went through the same , bone marrow test. Needless to say worst thing to happen . She also had to take Blood every week and therefore her hand was perpetually blackened . I swear every-time a nurse poked into her to find a nerve i died every time. The day before she passed away i told my self god please stop poking her and guess he heard me. I was hoping in the end of your story that she survives and she did . God bless and good read.

  84. Excellent post, I really enjoyed reading. I really do think humour is a very important part of kicking things in the ass. I hope you keep it up! X

  85. Sometimes you gotta laugh right in cancer’s face. Been there too many times with family (and maybe myself). Love your relationship with your sister. In the end, cancer can’t take away relationships.

  86. I had tongue cancer – if there’s one thing to do with cancer, it is ‘respect it’.

    That means taking all the medicine, everytime in the right order, really listening to instructions, really thinking only of your own survival.

    Cancer demands respect and if you don’t do that? It’ll kill you.

    Glad your sister made it and well done on being Freshy Pressed. Great blog..

  87. You’re good. You’re really good.

    But it’s been a tough evening…reading your stuff. My teenage son has been horribly rude tonight…and I should be more focused in counseling him away from this kind of rude behavior…but I’m in the middle of reading your stuff… It’s new to me…and I’m completely distracted by how warm and interesting and “strangely familiar” you are to me… but I’m turning and yelling at him (I rarely yell), I’m stuffing pizza in my mouth (I rarely eat pizza)…and I’m starting to get really TICKED here because I’m not being a good mother, the pizza is sticking in my throat and nobody’s letting me FOCUS on reading your stuff!

    This is no way to start a weekend:(

  88. Thank you for sharing. I have the same diagnosis as your sister (January 2014). I also have an very supportive family. It’s soooo important for such a challenging journey. God bless you, your sister, and your family.