Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Bit ‘O Fun...

Give us, Lord, a bit o' sun,
a bit o' work and a bit o' fun;
give us all, in the struggle and splutter,
our daily bread and a bit o' butter.

Give us health, our keep to make,
an' a bit to spare for poor folks' sake;
give us sense, for we're some of us duffers,
an' a heart to feel for all that suffers.

Give us, too, a bit o' song, 
an' a tale, an' a book to help us along,
an' give us our share o' sorrow's lesson
that we may see how grief's a blessing.

Give us, Lord, a chance to be
our goodly best - brave, wise and free;
our goodly best for ourselves and others
'til all men learn to live as brothers.

In my Irish heart of hearts, I know this is an old Irish prayer, but I’ve since been told it’s English, that it belongs to the Boy Scouts, that is a camping ritual prayer??? (really?).  Next someone will claim it came from the Koran (who knows?) – but for me it will always remain an Old Irish Prayer!

It crossed my mind this morning at mass.  We have a young priest from Ireland filling in for our vacationing pastor.  His sense of humor was definitely honed back on the old sod and his brogue doesn’t hurt his delivery either.  He likes to tell jokes to get his point across and today’s was about the importance of laughter in our lives and not taking ourselves too seriously.  He really lives the words “a bit o’ sun, a bit o’ work and a bit o’ fun.”

He claims there is research that says a child laughs an average of 115 times a day – an adult, 15.  From my experience around certain people, I think it’s a lot less than 15!  I’m not sure even I laugh that much each day and I really do try to find the humor in things.  Apparently, since he arrived, he has discovered America’s Funniest Home Videos and loves to have a few “belly laughs in the evenings.”  He also recounted the famous Norman Cousins’ chronicle of curing himself of pain, and ultimately of his disease, by self-medicating with The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy movies. 

Laughter may be the best medicine, but can it really cure an illness?  Doctors may have scoffed at this notion once, but today, your physician may actually advise you to increase your daily dose of laughter to improve your health. Today’s medical field now includes a Science of Happiness (seriously!) with real psychologists, who have discovered that laughter sets off a chain reaction throughout the body which promotes physical and psychological health. I wonder how many universities have a Happinessology Department?  Can’t you just see Jerry Lewis as the dean?  Okay, I digress.

Laughter lowers your body's hormone and cortisol levels thus reducing your chance of getting heart disease, high blood pressure and excess belly fat. Laughter also boosts your immune system by producing antibodies in your saliva and your bloodstream to stave off bacteria, viruses and parasites.  Even people with eczema have noted improvement in their symptoms after regularly watching funny movies. 

When you laugh, it affects your body the same way that a brisk walk would, increasing the aerobic capacity of your heart and lungs by expanding your oxygen consumption and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  The brain also releases endorphins which are the body’s natural energy booster, a natural painkiller, and a natural mood enhancer.  As a bonus, when the laughter subsides, along comes blessed relaxation. 

Some in the medical community may still be skeptical of the healing power of laughter, but over 100 hospitals in the US now have comedy carts traveling the hospital floors to make bedside visits to patients.  The staff and volunteers bring cheer and inspire laughter.  Some cancer treatment centers are actually incorporating laughter therapy sessions into a patient’s treatment plan in order to increase the positive thinking and happy feelings that support the healing process.  We all know that laughter is contagious.  The camaraderie fostered by laughter and humor therapy chases away the fear and promotes relaxation to speed the healing process. 

Patch Adams and his colleagues at the Gusundheit Institute in Virginia use a combination of clowning, singing and dancing to treat patients through entertainment in conjunction with traditional medicine.  A similar group in Australia uses clown therapy to incite laughter in patients dealing with injuries, diseases, and terminal illnesses.  

In 1995, Dr. Batan Kataria led the first laughter yoga class in Mumbai, India.  Today, people in more than 50 countries practice laughter Yoga to temporarily relieve pain.  Laughter therapy has even been proven to help our men and women serving in the military as a stress reliever to help prevent and treat conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.  Although there’s no concrete evidence that laughter alone can cure an illness, it does promote physical and mental health.  

So, I suggest that everyone tries to laugh at least 15 times a day.  If you can’t find anything to laugh about, as they say “Fake it ‘til you make it!”  Even forced or fake laughter will work – plus, odds are that it will turn into true laughter.  I have to go now.  I have to program my DVR to the comedy channel.  

SURVIVAL TIPS – Find something to laugh at – start with yourself first!  We really are our own best material.  Enjoy every minute of every day – “a bit o’ song, an’ a tale, an’ a book to help us along.”

Sunday, July 8, 2012


The other day, I sent an update to some friends of mine about my current cancer status – working through recurrence and hopefully into remission.  They are my prayer army and deserve periodic updates – and a lot more than I am able to give them.  One of them wrote back,

“What good news!!  You sold your house, your numbers are OK (?), you got to be Grammy for a while and watched fireworks for over 2 hours on the 4th of July.  What else can a girl ask for??” 

She’s right! What else could I ask for?  If you recall, a month or so ago I made a deal with God.  I would stop my constant whining and moaning to Him to heal me and just let Him handle it in His own time and His own way.  After all, He’s the one with ALL the power – not me.  He would take care of the big things and I would do the little “stuff” He didn’t have time for.  (By the way, the sale of our house was one of the major things I turned over to Him.  He took care of that with minimum drama!  But was that enough for me – of course not!) Well, seems I fell off the Trust Wagon, with a big, noisy thud. 

My CA-125 numbers had been coming down steadily during my treatments.  When I reached the end of #5 of 6, I was just under the “high normal” level.  So, after treatment #6, I expected low, low results.  God’s handling it, right? I kept telling Him what a great job He was doing!  No dice!  I think He was distracted that day.  It barely dropped ½ a point.  I started to teeter on the edge of the wagon and the whining began.  I requested another test in 2 weeks, just before my appointment with the doctor.  It was 2 weeks of moaning and groaning to the heavens.  I was so self-absorbed that I didn’t even do much crocheting on my prayer shawls – which was part of my end of the deal.  Well, this time the numbers went up 10 points.  For 24 hours, I was useless.  No trusting in His plan for me; no “Your will, not mine!”  Just get out your ear plugs, the pest is back – with a vengeance.  I wouldn’t talk to anyone; I wouldn’t walk on the beach; I just sulked. 

The next morning we left for my appointment.  In walks the doctor, his nurse, and a medical student, all smiling.  I was wearing my best please don’t let me die expression!  The first words out of Dr. M’s mouth were, “I’m not overly concerned about a little bump in the numbers.”  My respectful reply was, “Well I’m glad one of us isn’t.”  (Have I told you that I’m not the most genteel patient?) 

Over the next fifteen or twenty minutes, he did what he always does.  He explained why he wasn’t concerned.  He offered a number of options and went over each in detail.  We came to a decision that we were both comfortable with.  He calmed my fears.  He healed my pain with compassion and he treated my anxiety with his endearing sense of humor.  Once again, I left his office feeling uplifted and safe.  My husband often tells me that it makes him feel so much better when I come back into the waiting room laughing and smiling.  I am surrounded by guardian angels.  Which reminds me – back to The Boss and that darned old wagon.

So, I’m humbly (and quietly) trying to sneak back up onto that Trust Wagon.  I hate to be too obvious about the climb since I know I’ll fall off again.  Trusting and letting go are very difficult for me.  I’m an Aires – I think I can run the world!  I really think I could – but that’s another story!  But I promise to give Trust another go.  I really, really will! 

I have a husband who’s being recommended for sainthood, a family who loves and supports me no matter how annoying I am, a prayer army that Satan himself couldn’t overcome, a medical team that keeps me alive and laughing, a glorious sunrise and a brilliant sunset each day, and a God who never tunes me out – even when He really should!   
What else can a girl ask for??? 

SURVIVAL  TIPS:  A bump in the road, or a bump in your numbers,  is sometimes just that – a little bump.  Not the end of your road!  Trust really is the answer, difficult as that may be for some of us.  By the way, if any of you know of a 12-step program for Aires control freaks, please send me the information!