It’s Okay to Laugh

15 Dec

Cancer isn’t all gloom and doom, no matter what people may think.  Or, at least, it shouldn’t be – a little laughter from time to time makes it easier to get through.

I have always been on the lookout for funny little quirks in my environment.  Here are a few amusing sketches and observations:

French vocabulary lesson

At the University of Geneva Hospital, I was required to check in two days before my kidney surgery to undergo all the necessary pre-op procedures.  By then I’d lived and worked in French-speaking countries for four years, so I had a very solid grasp on the language.

There are certain things that you don’t talk about at school or at work, though, such as your private anatomy.  In the hospital, all patients were required to take two Betadyne baths before their surgery, and a list of instructions was supplied along with the Betadyne bottle.  Most of it was pretty standard – wash your face, behind your ears, underneath your fingernails, between your toes, and… your pli interfessaire.  Literally, your “inter-buttock fold”.

I guess that’s how you say “buttcrack” politely in French.


When I was prescribed an antibiotic to treat my gallbladder infection, I read the package insert in order to be informed about any possible side effects. In doing so, I discovered that it, in combination with another drug that I was taking, can cause a rupture of the Achilles tendon.

I so did not want to know that.

My Achilles and I took it very easy for the following week!

I love my oncologist

In order to be able to stay in Geneva and take care of me as long as possible, my mom had to apply for a special residence permit with the immigration office.  My oncologist was required to fill out some paperwork for the application.  The papers stated “please fill out electronically”, but the OCP didn’t provide a link to an online form.  So in huge letters on the hard copy, the doctor wrote, “HOW?!”

Just call me Miss Bubble Wrap

I’ve never heard of chemo side effects that were climate-dependent.  That is, until I experienced one first-hand.  Geneva has a fairly mild climate, with temperatures that rarely exceed 85 in the summer.  Texas, on the other hand, is much hotter, with temperatures well over 100 on many days.  The change in temperature made my skin erupt in bubbles full of air, just like Bubble Wrap.  The bubbles were small, ranging from the size of a pinhead to the size of a frozen raindrop.  Size notwithstanding, they were just as fun to pop as real Bubble Wrap bubbles.  There’s a reason they’ve turned Bubble Wrap into a virtual app for phones – popping it is addictive!

I totally made his day

No, I didn’t do anything naughty.   I just took home the no-skid hospital socks the technician gave me to wear during my MRI.  My dog Osker did eat the last pair I had, after all.  The MRI tech couldn’t have been happier.

Anatomically incorrect

When I switched from taking Sutent to Afinitor, I began retaining fluid like crazy.  My feet, in particular, were dreadful – I could barely fit them in my shoes and they developed nasty stretch marks.  When the physician’s assistant saw how bad the problem was, she told me that I needed to either wear compression hose or learn to pee out of my toes.

Given my druthers, I druther have learned to pee out my toes.  It would be much more convenient, especially in the hospital.


The last official step in converting to Judaism is a ritual trip to the mikveh, which is sort of similar to a baptistery pool in Christianity.  You have to submerge your (completely naked) self in the mikveh three times while saying the appropriate blessings.  Now, when I was a child, I could not float to save my life.  I was always the worst at floating in my swim class.  You would think that a 100-pound weight gain would make it easier to sink, but the opposite is true – fat is very good at floating.  When it came time for me to dip in the mikveh, I could not, for the life of me, convince my boobs to go underwater.  I had to grab the bar in the pool and haul myself as far down as possible, which technically is a no-no since every skin surface is supposed to touch only water.

My friends never did let me live it down, nicknaming my boobs “the floaties”.

Seriously? You had to ask?

I go to a specialty oncology clinic for all my doctor’s appointments and tests.

It very quickly became apparent to me that the paperwork that they used for various patient procedures was not designed specifically with the clinic in mind.  Instead, it was generic, asking, “Do you have a history of cancer?”

Nope.  I’m healthy as a horse.  (What do you think?!  Of course I have a history of cancer!  Otherwise I wouldn’t be here!)

Here, chemo chemo chemo!

C’mere boy!

It’s always worth it to read the fine print on any paperwork you receive.  Not because you’ll learn anything important from it (although sometimes you will, if you manage to understand it all), but because it is often poorly written and proofread, which can lead to funny wording like this, printed on my box of chemo:

Store at room temperature.  Excursions permitted between 59 and 86 °F.

As though I were going to put it on a leash and walk it around the block.

Danger! Danger!

Is our common sense really so lacking?  Label on the side of my box of Omeprazole:

Drug Warning: Do not take if allergic to Omeprazole.

It’s Unfortunate

My Swiss Social Security Disability benefits go up for review every year, and part of the enormous package that I have to send in is a letter from my oncologist stating to what degree I’m disabled.  My oncologist is Indian, so sometimes her turns of phrase in English are a little quaint.  In her letter, I am characterized as “an unfortunate woman with renal cell carcinoma.”  To be described as such kind of cracked me up.


These are the two options to choose between on the hospital’s patient release paperwork:

Patient released on ______________


Patient expired on ______________

Wow. I didn’t realize we had expiration dates stamped across our foreheads!

Sometimes reality isn’t quite as it seems

Or is it?  This sign was pasted over a button at the doctor’s office:

You left out an important question

One night I couldn’t fall asleep, which is very unusual for me — my medicine usually makes me very tired.

Anyway, I discovered that paid programming starts at 3am on the History Channel.

Paid Programming: This is a paid advertisement sponsored by [XYZ Corp].

PP: Do you use the bathroom with increased frequency?

Me: Yes.

PP: Do you suffer from urgency and fear having an accident?

Me: Yes!

PP: Do you get up 2 or more times in the middle of the night to urinate?

Me: Yes!

PP: If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from an enlarged prostate.

Um, no.  Perhaps they should have begun with the question “Are you a man?” Nice try, though.

Oh where, oh where did the little R go?

Oh where, oh where could he be?

Rs seem to like to hide from me.  During my days as a proofreader in Switzerland, I came across a document that was inappropriately titled Panties with built-in cooking appliances. My doctor’s office in the States had a lot of missing Rs, too — their questionnaire wanted to know whether or not I had Inging in the ears.  (It also wanted to know whether or not I had naal discharge.)  By the end of the sheet, I wanted to know if I had vision problems or if they lacked a qualified professional to draw up their paperwork!

There’s no need for alarm

Seen on the alarm that rang in my hospital room:

Alarm.  No action needed.


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