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by Ian Mair   |   August 24, 2017

“Laughing with Cancer:” How Did I Get Here?

Both of my parents had cancer in their lifetimes, and both were lucky enough to have beat it. Mom was diagnosed in the early 70’s when, compared to today, cancer treatment was in the dark ages. She is 97 today and still ticking along. Dad’s cancer involved his colon and occurred in the early 80’s. While cancer embarrassed my mom, my dad would hold court on his cancer surgery and treatment if anyone was interested. While mom didn’t want to talk about it and withdrew into herself, dad was the opposite.

I lived through two people handling their individual cancer diagnoses differently, yet both were appropriate for them. Cancer is personal.

It seems that throughout my life I have always been able to find humor, sometimes in the oddest of places. It’s been a part of me almost as long as I’ve been writing. I started with songwriting, but one day, songwriting was no longer enough. I wanted to write something more substantial.

When I sat down to write my first book, I didn’t dare tell anyone. After winning National Novel Writing Month in 2010 and 2011, four novels had been plucked from my head and committed to e-paper. After that came what I call my ‘prostate cancer comedy.’

A confirmed prostate cancer diagnosis set me on the path so familiar to many: tests and diagnoses ad nauseam. Checking my dignity at the door became a rite of passage seemingly less important each time it occurred. When all was said and done, I didn’t even have to look at the hook by the exam room door. I knew well dignity had left me.

Because my kids worried about me, I eased their concerns with lighthearted comments. I avoided the seriousness of the situation preferring instead to joke about the latest procedure or test result. It wasn’t long before laughter overtook the disease and became the main staple of how I viewed my cancer. Laughing about things diminished its insidiousness, at least on the surface.

I put pen to paper in order to remember specific incidents that amused me. It was cathartic for me to write it all down. When my cancer recurred three years after surgery – requiring eight weeks of radiation treatment – humor returned with it.

Nurses and medical technicians went out of their way to make me feel at ease and I found myself doing the same for them. Finding humor brightened my outlook, and I am convinced made the journey easier for me and those around me. I decided almost immediately that my cancer’s return would be the epilogue to what I had written before, to my ‘prostate cancer comedy.’ It became just another chapter in my life. And so “Laughing With Cancer” was born.

Near the end of June in 2017, my daughter told me that the father of one of her friends had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was having some difficulty coping with the uncertainty of it all. She asked if I would share a copy of “Laughing With Cancer” with him

He read it immediately, calling it a “roadmap for what to expect.” To think that my book had such a positive effect on an entire family facing a prostate cancer diagnosis head-on is extremely gratifying. It is the story of my adventure, but at the same time details options presented to me during my journey and my basis for choosing between them. The purpose for each test is explained in definitively non-medical terms. It is easy to understand and fun to read, albeit unfiltered bordering on bawdy.

I’ve since decided, in addition to writing, to become an advocate for prostate cancer awareness. I especially know the importance of PSA testing to establish a person’s individual baseline, and I know how much it cannot be overstated. Along with ZERO, I encourage people to educate themselves and to seek professional advice to make informed treatment decisions.

A confirmed cancer diagnosis should never be taken lightly. Cancer is serious personal business and is different for every person it affects. My advice?

Get the latest information. Talk to doctors. Talk to friends and others who have had what you have. Read articles and educate yourself so you can be an active participant in your treatment. Decide on a treatment program and then stick to it. Don’t believe there is an easy way out. Be your own best advocate so you become your own best friend.

And keep smiling! It lights up the world.

Visit Ian and check out “Laughing With Cancer” here.