Let me ask everyone this question:
Would your doctor joking with you make you feel more or less at ease?
What if your doctor were joking about something uncomfortable? Like a vaginal discharge or erectile dysfunction or cancer or even death?
I wonder because Edwina’s Episodes asked:
“Are there times when you really want to laugh but it is totally inappropriate to do so?”
The answer to that is yes.
Humor can be found in all sorts of uncomfortable places….
It was the middle of the night and my patient had just agreed to hospice. She had recurrent metastatic lung cancer with a huge malignant effusion and she was done fighting. Done. I had been called because she was short of breath. I stood in the dimly lit, somber room and explained to her about the morphine nebulizer treatments I was ordering. The woman was struggling to breath and everyone else in the room was red eyed and tear stained.
When I finished, she looked up at me from her hospital bed and grinned. The she said, “You mean all I had to do to get the good stuff was agree to die?” It felt so wrong to laugh so I held it back. She had a nice little giggle.
Her family looked on, horrified.
Afterward, after I pronounced her dead, I marveled at her ability to look death in the face and still crack a joke. What peace she must have possessed.
What is wrong with that, anyway?
And so I advise people to try to find the humor in life and in death. It is OK to laugh with a cancer patient. It is OK to be silly about your vagina. Or your penis. Or your snot. Or your rash. Or even to laugh in the face of death itself. A little giggle never hurt anyone.
I am freer now with my own laughs with patients. I try have at least one good laugh with each patient I see. Sometimes it is laughter over something truly funny. Sometimes it is laughing to keep from crying.
All laughter is healing.