researching it, I’ll bet that cancer in Colorado is no funnier than cancer in New
Hampshire, but I can only speak for the Granite State and my lung tumor.
Google reveals that no one living here
has ever said: “as funny as cancer in New Hampshire.” That’s why I must say it
now, living and writing as your native nurse humorist-tumorist.
The ER doc unceremoniously said:
“You have a mass on your lung.” With an inspired aplomb that only a New
Englander would appreciate, I said: “I’m assuming you don’t mean
Bang. Pow. Zoom. (I’m reserving
exclamation points for the first finale of my second act, and that’s my first
living with cancer in New Hampshire inside joke).
When I heard my diagnosis, the words
“Live Free or Die” shifted from the affairs of my state to my state of affairs,
and immediately became my adopted up close and personal motto. I felt like a rock-tumbled
Old Man of the Valley as an internal voice interrupted my shock: “Wait. Could
you spare a minute for mortality?” Why, yes, I could but---
Funny as cancer?
My training and thirty-five-year career
as a bedside care nurse taught me that humor is as essential to healing as not getting
there is from here.
I had cancer, so I did what only a
New Hampshirite would do: started a wicked pissah cancer blog, made a
Fluffernutter and washed it down with a frappe. Massachusettsans will claim the
latter as theirs, but they do things like that.
I then began searching my muse for
the lighter side of what I knew would be hauling a heavy load down a long road.
I’ve attended many patients with
cancer, so I know the lie of its rugged landscape and many perils. But, when it’s
MY trip as amateur pilot, not professional navigator? Funny as cancer? Here, in
a state where freedom or death is a mandate?
Yes. Especially here.
First chore? Name my tumor. Men do
this. We personalize our body parts and functions, errant and otherwise, and
women will never understand it, beginning with the otherwise devoted wife lying
next to me. She thinks it’s weird.
I needed both radiation and
chemotherapy, so I came up with “Rad Chemo.” Great moniker for a body-ambushing
villain, and it kept with our New Hampshire tradition of seriously naming funny
My sympathies and apologies to the
residents of Effingham, who undoubtedly live with a year-round tongue-in-cheek
at the ready for any inquiring tourists. Effingham has always sounded to me
like something expletively done to a ham.
Or, when you think Kanca, is it suffixed
with Mangus or Magus? Forever funny, and even we can’t decide.
I was also inspired by other
typically New Hampshire seriously funny things: Squirrel-proof birdfeeders (ha!),
no-see-ums, wearing shorts with winter coats, and no-faultlessly driving unlicensed
but self-designated road-legal snowmobiles, golf carts and riding mowers to the
When I began my radiation, I found
the spirit of our White Mountain State humor alive and free at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
hospital, when they snugged me up and into my treatment table mold with Rad
Chemo. I felt like a human skewer hosting a hitchhiking saboteur kabob on a
stationary spit as the linear accelerator rotated around us.
The “Radionettes” (the techs I’d
so-dubbed because they knew my musical likes and dark sense of humor), played
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” through the overhead speakers.
No, you can’t, but if you try
sometimes, you just might find, you get what we need.
---- Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick. All rights reserved. Used here with permission. This column is appearing in the February 2019 issue of New Hampshire Magazine. Senior Wire News Service Syndicated Humor Columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist, agony uncle columnist and poet. His latest book is “THE DIOECIANS – His and Her Love“. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.