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Voices of Hope & Healing
for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant

Got a Joke?
by Joan Johnson

I have always loved a good joke. Even a dumb one (like what's purple and goes bang, bang, bang, bang? Answer: a four-door grape.) Even in the worst of situations, I can generally find something to crack wise about. Maybe not right away, maybe not while I'm in the thick of the situation, but somewhere along the line I'll find something to laugh about.

This is, of course, the fault of my parents. My Dad had a way of turning a phrase into something funny. My Mom usually found humor in the absurdities of life. Hers was a dry wit. My Dad's was the out loud guffaw kind.

So when I needed a stem cell transplant for leukemia, I marshaled my defenses: I asked my friends and family to supply jokes and funny stories. I suspected there would be times during the process where I'd have trouble finding something funny. There were.

Transplants are scary; must be something about not having any white cells. Or being stuck in a small room for several weeks with only the staff to talk to when they pop in for blood pressure readings and blood samples and only the occasional visitor (my transplant site was an hour from my home making it difficult for friends and family to come).

There is also "chemo" brain, an actual phenomenon that makes baseball look fast-paced. So the jokes, funny stories and funny cards I took at my pace. I'd re-read the funniest jokes and laugh again.

There were, as it turns out, several benefits. I discovered laughter eased my pain and anxiety about treatment. I shared them. Transplant floors aren't always the cheeriest of places. As for my friends, one told me sending jokes was something she could do for me. It was then I realized standing on the sidelines wasn't easy either. I'm around one and a half years posttransplant. Took a lickin' and kept on tickin' (thanks, Timex). Every day I get stronger. Every day I laugh. Life somehow just seems better that way.

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