by Lorraine Kerz
“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep; when the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”
– Norman Cousins
Healing comes in many forms and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways, as political journalist and world peace activist Norman Cousins found out when confronted with a painful connective tissue disease. He was told that he had a one in five hundred chance of recovery, so he created his own recovery program, which included massive doses of intravenous vitamin C and self-induced bouts of laughter. We do not know for sure what cured Cousins of his illness; but I suspect that whatever the reason for his cure, the quality of his life was improved through the choices he made.
For most young adults with cancer, challenging and often painful treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgeries are frequently part of the course of healing. Along with the physical pain of cancer, there is also the anxiety, fear, and constant worry that can be as difficult to maneuver around. Doctors work hard to find cures and alleviate pain, and I believe that most in the field of oncology have a deep commitment to the work they are doing and put not only their intellect, but often their heart and soul into their work as well. And still, it takes a village as the saying goes.
During the time Sy was battling cancer, healing did not happen in the way we had hoped or expected; his cancer treatments stopped working early on. And yet, through the way in which Silas handled his situation, I believe that he was able to maintain as much independence as possible throughout his illness, which gave him a better quality of life. The entire oncology staff at Mass General, including his doctors, nurses, surgeon, and social worker, respected him as an independent, intelligent, funny and compassionate young man who wanted to be in control of his own medical treatments. They understood that he had no choice over what was happening in his life, and recognized the importance of him taking charge over decisions that needed to be made around his care. Sometimes Sy would want to go home from the hospital sooner than his medical team deemed in his best interest, and they worked with him around this; at times compromises would be made, at times they wouldn’t; but ultimately it was Sy’s decision. Sy also took charge of cleaning the IV pick line that administered medication through his veins throughout the day during the final months of his life, and gave EMT’s clear, respectful instructions around care in transporting him to the hospital during emergencies around pain management, when necessary.
But there were other forms of healing that was deemed equally important during that time; some found through trial and error, and some inherent to the strong willed, fun loving person he was. Laughter was up there at the top of the list, and so we watched hours of comedy, and delighted in his quirky, fast, and often dry sense of humor. Photography was an incredibly healing modality, and he spent as much time as possible photographing the world around him. Whether it was from his wheelchair or even his bed, he captured many powerful images through the camera lens. Along the way, reiki, foot reflexology, massage, and medical cannabis found their way into the mix, and all of these proved to be as helpful as traditional medicine in what they had to offer for management of anxiety, nausea, appetite, and quality of life.
So it is with Sy’s Fund that we understand the importance of an individual’s expression of healing, and the ways in which their choice of gifts can mean so much. Whether it is a camera, an online class, a laptop, reiki or massage sessions, or art supplies; they all have the power to heal.
Melody is a young woman of 18 who is battling a brain tumor. She has also found laughter to be part of her healing, along with her faith. Melody’s dream since childhood had been to become a pastry chef; since getting treatments for the brain tumor, however, she has been told that this will not be possible for her as she is unable to work with some of the ingredients she would have come in contact with. Melody came up with the brilliant idea to make natural soaps, because, as she put it, she will still be able to work with great smells, measuring, different shaped molds, colors and temperature control. We are so grateful for donations that allowed us to send Melody the supplies, equipment, and books needed for her soap making. Her mom let us know that Melody has received most of the gifts already, and that she is so excited that she can begin working toward making products to sell as she had already made some soaps with limited supplies she had on hand and has had so many people wanting to buy them that the timing was perfect! For those who would like to check out her work, please go to her Etsy site: HandcraftedByMelodyH.
Melody and her amazing soaps!
Maria is a single mom and artist who has stage 3 metastatic breast cancer. Maria chose IV vitamin therapy to help with her healing, to go along with the traditional cancer treatments she has been receiving. Maria found a place that is staffed by highly qualified people with medical backgrounds, and she is ready to begin treatments soon. You can follow Maria on Instagram theartofmarialaura.
Maria received IV vitamin therapy to ease some of the side effects of her cancer treatments.
This is what we are all about at Sy’s Fund; giving young adults choices in what they feel is needed to help them heal, and trusting that they know best. Because, as I mentioned earlier, when cancer hits, healing comes in many forms. It is both humbling and inspiring to do this work, and we at Sy’s Fund are honored to be a part of this very individualized process for young adults with cancer.
Thank you all for providing the love and support that makes all of this possible,