Writing about cancer: help, humour or hindrance?

As some of you already know, I’m a bit of a cancer veteran myself, having had two entirely unconnected cancer primaries at the same time starting back in 2003 and, having gotten through both, since then have been trying to help other cancer warriors beat the dreaded C-word, too.

Writing about cancer: help, humour or hindrance?

Writing about your cancer experiences enables other cancer patients (and carers) to identify with you and gain from sharing knowledge through empathy.

For a list of all 12 articles in this series on how to write well to people dealing with death, bereavement and other life sadness, click here. 

Much as this may seem somewhat excessive, you’d be surprised to learn just how common such experiences are.

One 92-year-old gentleman who is a member of the bladder cancer group I ran recently, has had three  unconnected cancer episodes.

His comment on being asked why he thought he had been so unlucky to get it three times… “If you live as long as I have, you can’t be surprised to have had that many illnesses including cancer. What matters is I’ve beaten them all and am still going.”

And what made me cheer this lovely gentleman on more than anything is that he proclaimed this information at our meeting swaggering in with a bejewelled cane, wearing a bright (and I mean  bright) red suit with a white shirt and sparkly red tie, and an attitude you could light a bonfire with.

So is attitude everything in overcoming cancer?

No, of course not. We don’t know if attitude can help, at least in terms of any defined and documented research.

But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the fact that a positive attitude can improve outcomes of (amongst many other medical conditions) cancer treatments and even, we hope, survival rates.

You may also find this article helpful:
Cancer: what to write to someone who has it

And how better to share our thoughts and gain from the positivity of other cancer patients and carers, than by writing about our experiences?

Once upon a time long ago and all that, I got an email from a great buddy of mine…

Cancer patients need to laugh. So write some funny stuff.

Freshly diagnosed with bladder cancer at a relatively early age, I was whining to my online friends about my misfortune.

Enter old and dear friend Roger who was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer about 25 years ago and still alarms his colorectal consultant/specialist when he attends his regular checkups.

Quote from consultant/specialist: “for f*ck’s sake, Roger, you’re not still  here?”

And then, needless to say, the consultant/specialist greets him as the dear friend and amazing patient he is… British humour at its best.

So, Roger laid into me with a zappy email that said, “We need some cancer humour online. All the jokes and humour I’ve seen are sh*te. You’re the one who makes people laugh: so make us cancer patients laugh.”

And I did. All that was a long time ago but the site is still up: CancerComicStrip.blogspot.com.

What does writing funny stuff about cancer achieve?

Some people may think that writing about cancer – particularly your own cancer and funny things that have happened to you along your cancer journey – is a selfish exercise that allows you to vent about your own pain, fear and issues.

Yes, of course: it is. And damned right that you should do it, too. Why?

Because by doing that, you can help other people who are going through cancer treatment. So don’t worry. Writing about your own experiences enables other cancer patients (and carers) to identify with you and share your knowledge through empathy, with you and everyone else going through the same things.

Needless to say, not everyone wants to seek laughs from their cancer experience.

But as Roger and I know so well, humour can have an incredibly therapeutic role to play in our phases of treatment, our post-treatment phases, and beyond.

Very few people in our current world can deny that humour is good medicine.

Quite a few cancer patients may feel initial hostility towards humour.

However once we’re “in the system” and dealing more calmly with symptoms, treatments and more, being able to let go and have a laugh at the more absurd things that happen to us, constitutes a welcome relief from the stress and pressure involved in dealing with our day-to-day cancer issues.

Write about your cancer here on HTWB

My original cancer site, CancerComicStrip, is dormant now. But because writing about my own cancer has helped me so much, and has helped so many others I know, I’m thinking of setting up a category here on HTWB for anyone who has a connection with cancer to share it and their thoughts and feelings about it.

If you would like to share your story please send it to me on suze@suzanstmaur.com, and I will share it on here.

For more information about my own pro-active involvement with cancer help and information, check out this site

If you have any questions generally about cancer you can drop me a line on suze@suzanstmaur.com

If you are in the (UK) Milton Keynes / Bedford / Northampton area and have questions about local cancer resources, contact us on info@mkcpp.org

Never forget: you may have cancer, but you also have a life.

Please share that thought with anyone you know who has cancer.

You may also be interested in this – a download from which I donate to two cancer charities – which shares some of the funny and endearing experiences my cancer patient buddies and I have experienced over the years.