The Comedy of Cancer

Comedy of Cancer | WIRL Project

(What’s it really like to hear you have cancer…a second time)

Have you ever had that moment when your phone rings and a feeling rushes over you of “this can’t be good”? As I answered my phone in the midst of cooking a weekday dinner for my family, I heard my doctor’s voice and I just knew… there was no doubt what he was about to say was not good. I’d heard the words before and this time I casually braced myself as I continued stirring the pots on the stove. “Well it’s a good thing we did that biopsy,” he said. “It came back cancerous so we need to discuss the next steps and your options.” And right there, in that very moment, I wanted to burst out laughing. I know, it’s not what most people would do in this situation, but for me, that’s what bubbled up inside. I had just been initiated into the multi-cancer club, and my membership included a get one cancer, get another free!I I just kept thinking about the expression “sick joke”. Here I am “sick” and yet i’m just coming up with jokes. Life is already full of chaos with my 3 crazy sweet children, a budding career, and a relationship in flux, and now I have cancer AGAIN?!?! I’d like to kick cancer out into the galaxy and watch it obliterate into dust particles. It’s got absolutely no business being in me or anyone else for that matter!

As the hours passed after that initial phone call, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening. I’d dealt with breast cancer exactly 4 years ago, diagnosed in the same month (I really dislike May!). The first time around, I tormented myself, asking over and over, “How did I get this? What caused it? Why me? What did I do wrong?” I have no family history and live a mostly healthy lifestyle. I was utterly perplexed. Now facing cancer for a second time, in my mind is “Well I’ve been dealt this crappy hand again. I can’t avoid it. How do I want this to play out?” Simultaneously, in my heart is “I am completely full of love for my family and friends. If my number is being called up to the pearly gates soon (and I have a lot of questions to be answered when I get there!), then I’m gonna dance and be my true, best self in every possible way on this earth.”

As a professional life coach, there is an abundance of self-learning with my clients, as well as insights I’ve had about myself working with my own coach. I’ve discovered how much humor and laughter are the essence of me, much like sadness and crying. They are all emotions that run deep within me, and intrinsically connect me with others. It got me thinking of going on the road and starting the Coaching Cancer Comedy Tour (insert chuckle!). And just like my cancer, drinks are buy one get one free! I’m not sure it would be a sell-out event, but it sure is how I often feel and I wonder if others may feel the same too.

When my doctors told me that thyroid cancer is very treatable and “the good cancer to get”, I felt some relief. However, a second cancer growing in my body is still a kick in the gut. When I paused to listen to my gut, I realized that it is also telling me something new here. I have a new freedom to live my life. Laugh out loud (giggling as my youngest son announces to me that I need to tell more jokes!). Unfilter my voice (coach more, write and blog!). Make bold choices (book that trip to Europe I’ve been putting off!). That’s what I choose to do as I navigate the treatment to eradicate cancer once again from my body. I’m owning it and being with it. I’m claiming that cancer is here and I’m empowered by the gifts it has given me: to see clearly, to hear differently, to feel deeply and to laugh all the more, everyday. This is my mantra and I am LIVING it!



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Profile photo of Maura McCarthy-Sanborn
I'm a Professional Life coach with a combined background in recruiting, accounting, finance and start-up businesses. I'm a proud (and sometimes frazzled!) single mom of 3 silly smart kids. I am passionate about my community and a volunteer/ Board member for nonprofits focused on breast cancer. I exercise daily (especially running) because it energizes and centers me. If I had freedom to do anything, it would be to travel and meet people everywhere!

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