Humor and Cancer

A lighthearted look at cancer from a patient's perspective

Lila Green, three-year ovarian cancer survivor and humor educator, shared her perspective on humor and cancer with the faculty and staff of the U-M Cancer Center at two special presentations honoring the four-year anniversary of the opening of the Cancer Center building this past May.

"Cancer is a bumpy journey, and I have found that humor helps to smooth the road," Lila Green told the standing-room-only crowd of Cancer Center staff and faculty who had helped her through her treatments. During treatment, Ms. Green gave her health care providers permission to laugh with her - not at her. She shared tips for adding a light touch to everyone's personal and professional lives:

  • Take work seriously and yourself lightly. Humor is everywhere in everyday life - look for it until it finds you.
  • Take a patient's "funny bone" history along with their medical history.
    Find out what toys and games patients played when they were little.
    Ask, "What part of you feels best today?"
  • Add a humor board to your office and clinic area - include patients' and staff's favorite cartoons and comical signs.
  • Along with introductory pictures of the health care team, display their baby pictures.
  • Add a cartoon to your next meeting agenda.
  • Leave work at work and go home light hearted - on the drive home think about the most pleasant thing that happened that day at work; blow soap bubbles when caught in a traffic jam.

Humor helps give perspective - it gives distance. "It's like changing a baby's diaper," said Ms. Green. "It doesn't solve the problem, but it sure makes things better for the moment."