Couple Copes with Cancer Using Love and Laughter

We asked our PMP Pal Couples to share their “tips” for coping with the strain that cancer can place on a marriage. “Pals” Brian and Linda came forward to share their suggestions with us this week! About this couple:

Brian, the “PMP Pal” patient and Linda, his wife, have just celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary! Their marriage has been punctuated by a series of challenges to Brian’s health, including the diagnosis and ongoing treatment for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.

In today's, article, Linda shares their “secret” of combining love and laughter, as coping tools in their arsenal against cancer!

“I speak from the role of the caregiver. After 50 years of marriage to my husband, the patient, I feel I can speak fairly confidently for him. During more than half of our married life, we’ve faced medical challenges that could have brought us to the brink of utter despair. My husband has had five brain tumor surgeries for a persistent meningioma and two operations for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.

Perhaps the most difficult time through all of these events was the clinical depression that followed my husband’s second brain tumor surgery in 1997. My usual easy going, positive outlook mate became an entirely different person. It was as if a complete stranger was living in my house or that some alien being had taken over his body. I don’t know what we would have done without our close family, and our church family that simply surrounded us with love and support. 

The medical “experts” have all told us that my husband is somewhat of a miracle in regards to his survival of cancer. I think that “miracle” is comprised of love, support and the excellent surgeons and medical care he has received along the way.

There is one more factor in his survival, and that is the outlook we choose to have; somehow through all of this, we haven’t lost our sense of humor! Mark Twain said: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

There just may be some people who are predisposed to humor and staying “upbeat, and that is a saving grace. Maybe those people have not truly faced difficult situations in their lives. Perhaps however, they have, and rather than letting those situations pull them down, they choose to find ways to move forward through the pain and look for the opportunities that can arise from the challenges they face.

In 2007 when my husband’s surgeon told me that Brian has Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, I remember thinking “OK God, what is this new challenge we have to face now?” 

We faced it and worked through by it still finding humor in the little things. Abraham Lincoln said “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I would surely die.”

Last year when my husband and I were at M.D. Anderson in Houston for a check up following his second surgery Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, we had some free time. We discovered a “Laughter Yoga” session that was open for patients and their families. We had absolutely no idea what this class was about, but being our usual open minded and adventurist selves, we decided to go!

We enjoyed an invigorating hour doing something completely crazy and fun! While we were laughing in this classroom with 20 complete strangers, I realized that my mood lifted exponentially and I was thinking about nothing but laughing and the fun I was having!

Humor and laughter have always come fairly easily for both my husband and I. During our most challenging times, it has been harder to find that humor, but somehow we’ve managed to pull it out just when we need it the most.

Now, back at home in our own city, I have become a Laughter Yoga instructor, and have added this new vocation to my existing real estate career. I enjoy helping others find some time to move away from their troubles for a short period with an hour of laughter!

Faith, hope, love and laughter…these are the things that have brought us through fifty years of marriage and a long battle with cancer!

Articles written in PMP Pals and posted on are written from the perspectives of patients and their families and are not intended to substitute for licensed, professional legal or medical counsel. Each case is unique, therefore patients should seek the advice of their licensed healthcare professionals. Copyright ©2012 by the PMP Pals’ Network.

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The Importance of Mental Healthcare during Cancer Treatment
By Pal Chris, USA

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 I assembled a team of professionals to help me stay healthy and fight hard.  Unfortunately, I forgot to include an important team member. Now, seven years, later I’m realizing the need for one particular critical member of that team.

I was diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2004 with Mucinous Adenocarcinoma of the Appendix.  I soon discovered the PMP Pals’ Network and found a wealth of resources including surgeons and oncologists. I was introduced to Pal Mentors to help me through the process of preparing for medical treatment. 

Being a young man, I didn’t seriously take the need to include a mental health professional on my team.  Looking back, it’s obvious that, with my wife being pregnant and me having such an aggressive upcoming surgery, that I would need to set aside time to talk to someone about my fears.

My strategy in the past has always been to buckle down and do what needs to be done to get through challenges.  But cancer is a challenge like no other!  Successfully navigating these waters requires as much sage counsel as you can get!

I was able to navigate significant chemo and HIPEC surgery and today am blessed to remain free of disease. However, after my medical treatment was completed I never properly dealt with my fears and I wasn’t thinking clearly. 

My unresolved feelings led me to make poor decisions, causing my wife and I to grow further and further apart.  Five years later, we were nearly divorced.  At the end of my rope, I finally sought counseling from my church and psychological professionals.  It was only through this help that I began to see how much work my family needed emotionally.  Thus began a new journey to bring emotional health to me and my family.

My wife and I now continue to see a therapist once a week.  I’ve found good men in my church to provide wise insight; their advice is helpful, as our family has grown to include two daughters, now ages 7 and 4.  My family continues to make progress, as we work on strengthening our emotional health daily. 

I urge anyone beginning the journey of cancer treatment to immediately include a professional counselor on their healthcare team. A psychologist can be a sounding board, listen to your fears, provide advice and help you address the challenges of balancing family life with cancer treatment. 

We are fortunate to have Pal psychologist, Dr. Larry Lachmanon the PMP Pals’ Network team.  Consider consulting with him, or another licensed professional counselor in your hometown.

It’s hard to think clearly when you’re fighting for your life. Invest in obtaining professional counseling. Your family is worth this investment!

Articles posted in PMP Pals and on are written from the perspectives of patients and their families and are not intended to substitute for licensed, professional legal or medical advice. Each patient is unique and should seek specific counsel from their own licensed healthcare professional. Copyright © 2012 by the PMP Pals’ Network. All rights reserved. Derechos de PMP Pals Network@2012. Todos los derechos reservados.