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Staring Down Cancer

Laughter Heals Even in the Face of Cancer

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You know I love to laugh, so what could be better than a trip to the Montreal Comedy Festival. I watched the comic genius of Louis C.K.(you must see his show Louie on FX), Garry Shandling, Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Kelly Carlin (George's daughter) and many more.

I walked away from that three-day experience lifted and energized. Why? Laughter heals. That is my mantra. Yes, I do have a few others such as “early detection is as close as we can get to a cure,” but, I want to concentrate on laughter.

We can all agree that laughing is fun. It's contagious, it bonds us to others, it feels good, it releases anxiety. It can do all this because physical changes take place when we laugh. Laughter releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. It also boosts our immune system by increasing T-cells which attack viruses. It is all good.

We have all read articles about comedians having a dark side – that they are moody and often depressed. It has been suggested that a certain portion of this brilliant group may be bipolar, and that the manic side is what drives them creatively. But I have never heard any comedian share this dark side with a live audience until Montreal. Marc Maron touched me to the core when he talked about his struggle with thoughts of suicide. When was the last time a stand-up comic made you cry? And not from laughing too hard.

I too have struggled terribly with depression since my cancer diagnosis. On more than one occasion, I have contemplated suicide. Living with a terminal illness is a bit of hell. When I have shared this with close friends, they are stunned. What stuns them is to hear how logical suicide can sound to a person who is depressed. It just makes perfect sense when you're the person contemplating it. It's like a revelation – a way to get out of this mess I'm in. It's a very serene feeling.

Lucky for me, I went to a psychiatrist who helped me with depression medication. Depression is a chemical disorder. Mine was caused by an extreme loss of estrogen. (Not to say that just living with cancer is enough to make any one depressed).

I was given shots of a drug to shutdown my ovaries. Now that is called menopause hell. 

Menopause happens over a long period of time. It can take five to 10 years as a woman's body slowly produces less and less estrogen. But when you take it all away in one week, that's the atomic bomb!

My depression is under control now, but I rely on heavy and consistent doses of laughter to keep me going. I am deadly serious about this. We have all got to keep laughing every single day. If you go a full day without laughing, it's time to re evaluate. You either need to start renting more DVD's or just find yourself some funnier friends. It's good to clean out the trash every now and then, no?

I want to thank all of you who have sent short inspirational videos to the website Men for Women Now. It's wonderful to hear from men about what they are going through or have gone through during the process of caring for a loved one with cancer. If you would like to send a video (under 60 seconds) that shares tips or advice, all you have to do is upload your video to YouTube and send us the link at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.

You can "Like" the Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook by clicking here.

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.