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couple-laughingWe asked our PMP Pal Couples to share their “tips” for coping with the strain that cancer can place on a marriage. “Pals” Brian and Linda came forward to share their suggestions with us.  About this couple:

Brian, the “PMP Pal” patient and Linda, his wife, have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary! Their marriage has been punctuated by a series of challenges to Brian’s health, including the diagnosis and ongoing treatment for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.

In today’s, article, Linda shares their “secret” of combining love and laughter, as coping tools in their arsenal against cance.

I speak from the role of the caregiver. After over 50 years of marriage to my husband, the patient, I feel I can speak fairly confidently for him. During more than half of our married life, we’ve faced medical challenges that could have brought us to the brink of utter despair. My husband has had five brain tumor surgeries for a persistent meningioma and two operations for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.

Perhaps the most difficult time through all of these events was the clinical depression that followed my husband’s second brain tumor surgery in 1997. My usual easy going, positive outlook mate became an entirely different person. It was as if a complete stranger was living in my house, or some alien being had taken over his body. I don’t know what we would have done without our close family and our church family that simply surrounded us with love and support.

The medical “experts” have all told us that my husband is somewhat of a miracle in regards to his survival of cancer. I think that “miracle” is comprised of love, support and the excellent surgeons and medical care he has received along the way.

There is one more factor in his survival, and that is the outlook we choose to have; somehow through all of this, we haven’t lost our sense of humor.  Mark Twain said: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

There just may be some people who are predisposed to humor and staying upbeat, and that is a saving grace. Maybe those people have not truly faced difficult situations in their lives. Perhaps however, they have, and rather than letting those situations pull them down, they choose to find ways to move forward through the pain and look for the opportunities that can arise from the challenges they face.

In 2007 when my husband’s surgeon told me that Brian has Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, I remember thinking “OK God, what is this new challenge we have to face now?”

We faced it and worked through it by still finding humor in the little things. Abraham Lincoln said “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I would surely die.”

When my husband and I were at M.D. Anderson in Houston for a checkup following his second surgery for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, we had some free time. We discovered a “Laughter Yoga” session that was open for patients and their families. We had absolutely no idea what this class was about, but being our usual open minded and adventurist selves, we decided to go.

We enjoyed an invigorating hour doing something completely crazy and fun. While we were laughing in this classroom with 20 complete strangers, I realized that my mood lifted exponentially, and I was thinking about nothing but laughing and the fun I was having!

Humor and laughter have always come fairly easily for both my husband and me. During our most challenging times, it has been harder to find that humor, but somehow we’ve managed to pull it out just when we need it the most.

Now, back at home in our own city, I have become a Laughter Yoga instructor, and have added this new vocation to my existing real estate career. I enjoy helping others find some time to move away from their troubles for a short period with an hour of laughter!

Faith, hope, love and laughter…these are the things that have brought us through over fifty years of marriage and a long battle with cancer!