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Brave Enough To Laugh With Me

My name is Laura. I'm from Ohio, and I was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer at age 28. I'm currently 30, and in treatment for a regional recurrence.

I have always loved to laugh, and humor has always been a part of the way I look at the world. My siblings and I love to tease each other and laugh all the time! When I was diagnosed with cancer, humor became a way of looking at the threat head-on, and not looking away. It was an essential coping mechanism that helped me get through the long days of waiting to hear what stage I was, what my life expectancy was, and what the surgery had revealed.

I am surprised at how often humor surfaced throughout the process. We've laughed about drains collecting blood like hungry little vampires; medical wrist bands getting scanned like I'm a grocery item; my head being as "bald as a tarantula's buttocks;" the fact that my cancer is fairly slow to progress and thus "pretty stupid;" the fact that the plastic surgeon measured the triangle of my breasts in comparison to my belly button and declared it a "perfect triangle;" the way we imagined the breasts jiggling like jell-O on their way down to pathology; and the way our hilarious Chaplain always finds me no matter where I am in the Cancer Center.

There was also that time that I was learning to walk right after surgery and a parade of young medical students had to come down the hall right at that exact moment and see my naked backside (I think it was part of the tour).

My two younger brothers are real wisecrackers, and they have kept my morale up with their joking and teasing throughout the diagnosis and surgery. I can always count on one of them for a good laugh! I had a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction, so I have two big scars on my chest. My brother David sometimes makes me chuckle by suggesting I ask in a grizzled voice, "Wanna know how I got these scars?" Because I don't have breasts, I can go topless working out or at the beach, and David also loves to make me laugh by assuming a Victorian air and crying, "The indecency!"

My brother Matthew has a bit that makes me laugh involving a ninja warrior. One day we were talking about what we would do if we could go back in time. I said I would go back in time and tell myself to get my breasts removed. Then again, the joke became, I would just go remove them myself. We imagined a time-traveling, breast-cancer preventing ninja warrior, suddenly appearing with a sword and, schwing! slicing off the dangerous boobs with no explanation. I don't know why this consistently cracks me up, but it really does. My brothers acted out the ninja with the sword and the schwing sound this would make, and it gave me a way to laugh at a cruel truth.

Laughter in the face of cancer redirects its power. I am so grateful that I have people in my life who are brave enough to laugh with me!

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