Friday, January 16, 2009

Laughing through Cancer

On Friday, January 16, 2009, in the afternoon, the National Public Radio show Fresh Air from WHYY will reprise nationwide an interview first aired on March 12, 2008, entitled For Comedian, Humor Eases 'Toughest Journey' that considers humor as a weapon or a palliative against cancer.

The interview of comedian Robert Schimmel covers extreme topics -- from fun to funerals -- as experienced by "one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Comics, [who] had his own stand up specials on HBO and Showtime, and has appeared regularly on Howard Stern and Conan O'Brien."

The circumstances of comedian Robert Schimmel's life are grim: He lost his son to leukemia, married and divorced the same woman three times, and battled cancer.

But throughout it all, Schimmel managed to find strength in humor.

His recent memoir is Cancer on $5 a Day: How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life.
The book by Robert Schimmel, published February 2008 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (hardcover, 240 pages), is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.

Cleveland Plain Dealer's review was quoted in Amazon's online review:
A remarkable and riveting account [in which] Schimmel is fiercely candid and direct.

This could be the most profanely adult book of inspiration you'll find.

But inspiring it is, and moving, without being mawkish or phony. Schimmel is simply too laugh-out-loud funny, and his storytelling too compelling. * * *
Another book review posted on Curled Up With a Good Book, by staff writer Barbara Bamberger Scott, described the experiences and attitudes related by the author:
The comic leaves his "audience" howling.

"They need this. They need the distraction, the change of pace, the release."
Coaxing laughter out of his medical team and his chemo companions is one side of the story.

But Schimmel still has to walk that lonesome valley by himself. He tries pot, Reiki, and crystal therapy. He talks to a rabbi AND a chaplain. * * *

He has seven sessions of chemo, the last one sufficient to teach him "I'm human," as his immune system crashes.

He has to decide he wants to survive, "which is not easy with cancer-killing poison coursing through my body, my face eternally hovering an inch above the toilet bowl, and my body feeling either as cold as Antarctica or as hot as the surface of the sun."

Visions of his children and his father inspire him. He holds on.

When he's told he's finally in remission, he says to his doctor, "I'm trying to cry but you've been beating the shit out of me for six months and I got no crying left."

Cancer is mean. It requires strong medicine and a strong will. Schimmel got both.

But he also stepped outside the bounds of his own suffering to make others laugh. To make me laugh. And you. * * *
BlogTalk Radio maintains a support group online, Laugh at Cancer Support Community Information, described as "a radio show for those families touched by cancer in any way."

, in association with XMRadio
, offers commercial educational programs intended for physicians. A few presentations in 2008 relate to the role of humor in the comprehensive setting of cancer treatment.
In addition to the reprised interview of Robert Schimmel on Fresh Air, NPR offers links to prior past discussions, free online, including:
For those who wish to hear Schimmel's interview [32 min 44 sec], click here, then click the Listen Now icon.

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

~Winston Churchill

Quotations for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Loved Ones