Survivor Stories Laughing with Cancer

Even when things seemed uncertain or bleak, I kept funny at the forefront.

Ian MairIan Mair. In the fight against cancer, survivors develop coping skills. Some turn to God or spirituality, some to friends, and some to renewed vigor in their work. I found humor. Or perhaps it found me.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer and trying to figure out how I should react – should I be devastated, angry, sad? – funny happened. Right away, I started to notice the comical side of prostate cancer. And I chose to look at life through a humorous lens throughout biopsy, surgery, recovery, recurrence, and radiation. Even when things seemed uncertain or bleak, I kept funny at the forefront. 

Cancer survivors tend to develop a sort of sixth sense, an appreciation for life on a scale much larger than before diagnosis. The mundane can suddenly seem special; the ordinary, anything but. As for me, I figure life is what you make it, so you might as well make it fun. I even wrote a book about it – a prostate cancer comedy, if you will. 

I’ve found that, once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, the decisions have been made, and a treatment plan formulated, painting it with the face of comedy (to whatever extent you are able) can make things more bearable. It is not a panacea, no magic bullet. It won’t make things easy. But life is difficult, with or without cancer. Try to hold on to your sense of humor.

An engineer, Ian Mair is an environmental manager for an international steelmaker at their suburban Philadelphia, PA, plant. A lifelong singer-songwriter, he wanted to write something more substantial and, in 2000, wrote his first novel. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2013. At the end of 2016, the cancer came back. After eight weeks of daily radiation treatment, he is now cancer-free. He wrote Laughing With Cancer – A Prostate Cancer Comedy to chronicle this adventure. You can learn more about Ian at LaughingWithCancer.org.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2017.