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October 21, 2020

Humor Therapy

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Featuring Richard Satterwhite and John Costin


Take a moment to close your eyes and think of a memory of a time you had a great laugh.  How do you feel?  Laughter simply makes us feel better.

Richard Satterwhite joined us on October 21st to remind us of the power of humor in our lives.   In addition to a long resume of professional comedy experience and business consulting, Mr. Satterwhite works for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.  He is a Patient Engagement Specialist in the Patient and Family Experience Department, where he designs and facilitates communication and customer engagement programs, which focus on the patient and family experience.

He is also a prostate cancer survivor, diagnosed with the disease in 2007, Richard became an educational awareness advocate for the disease. He is a founding member of MANUP Buffalo, Inc. (Men Allied for the Need to Understand Prostate Cancer), a grass roots prostate advocacy group started in 2008 and is committed to educating men and their families about prostate cancer. 

He shared that humor helps us navigate away from emotions that can sink us in pity or lead us to more despair.  He pointed out that kids on average laugh about 300 times a day and adults only average about 15 times a day.  We often are simply missing out on the many benefits of laughter.  Studies show that laughter decreases our stress for about 45 minutes after.  This lowers our cortisol which ends up boosting our immune system.    He shared that the National Cancer Institute released studies on how humor therapy reduces pain and stress.  The Mayo Clinic has shared how laughter increases oxygen flow to the lungs and heart.    Studies also show that watching a funny five-minute video makes people on average twice as productive after than those who did not watch the video. Humor even helps with memory.   It is important to know your audience when incorporating humor but there is evidence of its many benefits.

So how do we add more humor to our lives?  Richard’s tips are as follows.

  1.  Watch something funny every night before bed.
  2. Follow funny things on social media.
  3. Journal or end your day by thinking about three things you found funny in your day.
  4. Look as life as improv.
  5. See the benefit in coping and connection that comes with humor.  Seek those opportunities.
  6. Check out the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor.  They have some great podcasts at http://laughbox.aath.org/.
  7. Spend time with funny people.


John Costin joined us as our patient voice in the program.  John is an established businessman that came from a humble farm in England. Together with his wife Marcella, they are the owners of The Queens Head Wine Pub, The Lark Theater, and retail boutiques in Michigan. John is a Board member of the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link.

For most of his career John worked for General Motors and gained his business experience working in many International positions including . . . 

Chairman Delta Motor Group – Finland

CEO Delta Motor Group – Finland

President and owner – Around the World Business Consulting Services – USA

President General Motors Overseas Distribution – USA

and several Executive Director positions at General Motors. To see a full interview, you can go to johncostin.com

He is an author and known for his style of leadership that coaches and mentors others. Little did he know he would be using those skills to encourage others in coping with a cancer journey. For it was not that long ago that John was told there was no hope and that he had an extremely limited life expectancy due to leukemia. A doctor friend recommended he go to Dana Farber and be consulted for a bone marrow transplant. He was approved and received stem cells from a 23-year-old donor in Germany named Constantine. Today, John is cancer free and thriving. Thank God for second opinions!

John shared that when he first got diagnosed with AML, he could not be alone and did not want the lights on.  He has always been an “up” person, but it simply was overwhelming.  He ended up meeting a man who just had the opportunity to meet his donor and something changed for him in that moment.  He decided he was going to do this transplant and that he had the goal of meeting his donor after too.  He was 71 at the time.  It took about 4-5 months before he started feeling more like himself, but he shares how it was all worth it.

John shared that having a wife that set the tone for being positive really helped him.  They decided together that they would keep life fun and interesting regardless of what they were going through.  His wife organized different types of things every day like game days, reading days, cooking days, etc.  He did his best to participate and this helped keep his spirits up.  These activities kept them both occupied instead of constantly focusing on their situation.  There were several down days from things like a liver infection, horrible swelling and such, but mindset still made those days easier.  At first John thought he wanted to be private about his journey, however, as time went on, he decided to be more open.  This allowed friends to be supportive.  This also created fun opportunities for he and his wife to celebrate milestones.  She would videotape him in different costumes to announce when those milestones came.  These little chuckles for them helped him throughout his recovery.  John believes that if we focus, we can accomplish anything.

When asked about what could be done to help with caregivers that are bringing us down on the journey, John recommended some great tips.  He shared being honest in communicating your needs, realize your caregiver has needs too, the importance of truly listening to each other, and focusing on how you can partner through this together.  Realize to be good at something you need to do it about 5000 times.  We cannot be good at everything then and need to realize we might make lots of mistakes along the way, but if you do not give up, you will succeed.

We acknowledge and thank the following Link Partners for their ongoing support.

• The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
• Incyte Corporation
• Pharmacyclics & Janssen