For the first time since diagnosis I felt an excitement for life

Bowel Cancer Australia

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Laughing when faced with a life-threatening illness doesn't quite seem appropriate, does it?

But at times, it's the only thing that can help a person cope with a distressing situation.

While bowel cancer is no laughing matter, finding humour in the centre of difficulty – though it might seem an impossible feat – is not only possible, it's probable.

When Ros Ben-Moshe was diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 42, she was in no mood to laugh, but says she knew somehow laughter would be integral to her healing and recovery.

“All I wanted was to hide from the public and cry,” she said, but as a professional laughter yoga facilitator and lecturer in health promotion, her job required her to run a laughter session despite being scheduled for major surgery - a full bowel resection together with a temporary ileostomy – within a few days.

She described the event as being almost like an out of body experience, as she outlined the social, emotional and physical health benefits of laughter to the attendees.

“The more we choose to smile and laugh, the better worn those neural pathways become so we actually rewire the brain to a complete and constant state of calm, joy and awareness,” Ros explained to the audience before leading the group in laughter exercises, deep breathing and clapping.

“For the first time since diagnosis I felt an excitement for life, for really living.

“I now felt significantly more prepared for the whopping surgery that awaited me,” Ros explained.

As Ros went into her surgery, she committed to herself that she would allow the surgeons to attend to her physical condition, but she would attend to her healing.

“Even when circumstances may have appeared less than perfect, laughter, mindfulness and other positive psychology techniques helped align my mind and body to a state where optimal healing could occur,” said Ros.

Learning to laugh during bowel cancer isn't easy and may seem inappropriate or totally taboo to some, but if you can find humour in the midst of pain, it is possible to find something that can soothe the soul when it seems everything else has failed.

The goal is to notice anything that pushes you away from your pain and toward a little happiness, even if only for a few seconds.

It's OK to laugh when you have bowel cancer. There are no rules. Each of us makes them up as we go along.

“I am now appreciative for what at times was undeniably a gruelling journey. I was stripped back to raw yet rebuilt myself on principles that previously I had merely preached. This year of healing set me up for a life of joy, love and laughter, and for that I am eternally grateful,” Ros said.

Ros is the author of Laughing at cancer: How to heal with Love, laughter and mindfulness. 

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