Laughing In The Face Of Death


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.


148 thoughts on “Laughing In The Face Of Death

  1. I’ve always found my doctor’s appointments someone amusing just in general – I mean, just getting into the lady position (there’s probably a technical term for that) is amusing. And will probably be more so as I get older and it gets more difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s not really the same, but last night we did spinal anaesthesia on a woman for a C-section, and we were draping her she let out a fabulous “toot”. She giggled, and we giggled, and she seemed immediately more relaxed. I think laughing is important. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. humor is relative, its a fine line, you have to make sure your audience gets it and knows you are joking otherwise it could be very offensive to them. there are some people that everyone knows they are fun and joking, but there are others that THINK they are hilarious but it comes off as rude.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In college, I picked up my first yeast infection. Which I then could not kick for the next YEARS. From gyn to gyn, pillar to post, drug to drug. I was even painted with gentian violet (very very pretty, I have to say). I was seeing Dr. Seven, or whatever, and answering his question regarding history by giving a quick synopsis of the failed efforts thus far and the many substances spread upon my nether parts.

    He looked at me seriously, touched all his fingertips together, and asked, in his heavy Indian accent:

    “Ah. But have you tried the meat tenderizer?”

    He did not cure the infection, either, but was the first doctor to get me to smile.
    My sister cured the infection, by telling me to start sticking Acidophilus capsules up me twice a day. That finally did the trick.

    Liked by 1 person

      • First, you had better be saying that about his comment, and not the impressive staying power of my Super Yeast buddies.
        Second, I agree. What would be equally awesome is if we had the incident on film, for I am never quick on the uptake. My normal molasses time was slowed so far by his accent and the lack of expectation that a doctor would use humor about my vagina that a live audience at the video would enjoy a shouted countdown to the point where the light finally dawns upon my bewildered countenance.

        Liked by 1 person

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