Amanda Kabbabe was 24 years old living in New Jersey and working at an online fashion magazine in New York City when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of ovarian cancer. She had been experiencing symptoms for years and was ultimately diagnosed with Stage IA Grade 3 ovarian germ cell tumor in November 2017. She underwent a unilateral oophorectomy and three rounds of chemo. Humor has been pertinent in her healing.
When I found out I had cancer, I thought my doctor was a moron. Plain and simple. It had been years and years of symptoms, all of them being attributed to something else. When I told my gynecologist about my bloating and stabbing pains, she advised I remove carbohydrates from my diet. She didn’t think I needed any further testing.
Fast forward a month from that appointment and I was in a hospital bed at Sloan Kettering being wheeled into surgery. I was horrified, as anyone would be. When I found out two weeks later that I would need chemo, that feeling was doubled.
The hardest thing to accept? I was going to lose all of my hair.
The way I handle bad situations is by making jokes. I address my insecurities by pointing them out myself and laughing at them. In a way, it makes me feel like I have control over my situation. Once I lost my hair, I did exactly that. I used my jarring baldness as a punch line, and sometimes, as a power move.
A time that sticks out the most to me was when my boyfriend and I went to see John Mulaney at Radio City Music Hall. I had just wrapped up my third round of chemo and was feeling horrible. I’m a huge fan of stand-up though, so I wasn’t missing the show. At the end, everyone was slowly piling out of the iconic venue. Once I stepped outside, I realized it was freeeeeeeezing. People were still leaving. I told my boyfriend I should have taken longer to pee on my way out.
I tried to step back in behind the doors and security wasn’t having it.
“Ma’am, no re-entrance.”
I showed him my ticket.
“Ma’am, you can’t come inside.”
I explained I had cancer, and I was too sensitive to the cold to wait outside for my Uber.
“Ma’am I don’t know you personal st—“
And just like that, I ripped my wig off. In a liberating and honestly hilarious move. The man stared at my sparse hairs, curling in every which direction.
I stared at him with a straight face for about five seconds until he threw his hands up, said, “I can’t fucking do this,” and walked away. Didn’t see him again. Stood inside. Nice and warm. I win.
Since then, sliding my wig off has been one of my actual favorite things to do. It shocks people like crazy. I guess it looks realistic!
Making jokes about the cancer, whether it be about my hair loss or my aging ovaries, has made my recovery process feel a lot easier. While yes, cancer jokes are generally frowned upon, it’s different when you can kind of laugh at yourself.
When I was in the hospital after my surgery, I remember my remote kept disconnecting from the TV for whatever reason. It was 3 a.m. one night, and I woke up to "American Pickers." I tried and tried and could not for the life of me get the stupid show off the TV. Everything on the show looked like garbage to me and all I wanted was some peace, quiet and the Kardashians.
I threw a TANTRUM. I couldn’t get up because my incision was still too sore. My boyfriend and mom were both asleep in the room but completely out cold. I found myself welling up in tears looking at the TV while thinking about how badly that Chumlee guy needed a hair cut.
Just then, I started cracking up.
The point is, you can’t take your life too seriously, no matter how serious the circumstances may be. Whether it’s the hardest round of chemo you’ve ever faced that leaves you breathless on your bathroom floor, or the most mind numbing A&E show you can think of – laughing helps.