Posts Tagged cancer

Laughter – The Shiny Side Up – Rev. Susan Sparks

Hi Y’all, welcome to the Shiny Side Up! A journal of infectious inspiration that will lift you up, make you smile and leave you stronger!

Recently, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to two immunotherapy researchers for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer.

As a breast cancer survivor, I say “Amen!” Thanks to advances like this, including innovative treatments, and early detection, I am a twelve-year survivor.

Well . . . innovative treatments, early detection, and, of course, laughter.

Laughter?

Yes. As a comedian, minister and cancer survivor, I believe that laughter is one of the most powerful tools we have for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. And in this month of Breast Cancer Awareness, it is something we should celebrate.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of humor. For example, we know that the extra intake of air from laughing can lower our blood pressure, boost the immune system, enhance heart and lung function and increase endorphins. It can even bump up our calorie burn. In fact, laughing for fifteen minutes can burn 80 calories. That’s enough to justify a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup!

Humor is now being used in hospitals and treatment centers as a healing tool for cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and mental health issues. The Big Apple Clown Care Unit, for example, sponsors programs across the country in which clowns help children cope with the intimidating atmosphere of a hospital.

Another program, Standup for Mental Health, uses stand-up comedy training to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. As its founder, David Granirer, explains, “The idea is that laughing at our setbacks raises us above them. It makes people go from despair to hope, and hope is crucial to anyone struggling with adversity.”

Humor and laughter can also bring psychological healing. During my cancer struggle, I realized I had three choices: be mad, be sad, or laugh. I soon learned that the most powerful approach was to laugh. One day, a new patient walked into the radiation center with a T-shirt that read: “Yes, they are fake; my old ones tried to kill me.” The entire waiting room burst out laughing, and that moment of laughter reminded us that cancer was not who we were; it was only something we were experiencing.

Laughter changes our perspective and invites us to see things in a fresh new way. The ability to step back and laugh at ourselves also reminds us that we are only human and that we should be more forgiving of ourselves.

It’s like the serenity prayer teaches: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Of course, I like the senility prayer better: “God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.” Either way, laughter helps us see ourselves in a more forgiving light.

Spiritual healing may be where laughter is most powerful. As Proverbs teaches us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones…”

The Hebrew word “ruach” means both “spirit” and “air.” Therefore, it can be said that when we laugh, we are inhaling and exhaling the spirit. Or, as author Anne Lamott describes it, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

And why not? God has a sense of humor. Consider 1 Samuel 5:9 where God strikes the entire male population of Philistines with hemorrhoids (harsh, but funny), or the fact that we are made in the image of the divine. Humans laugh and feel joy, so a part of the divine must also laugh.

The willingness to laugh with God also allows us to express anger with God. Sometimes we blame or get mad at God for what we are going through. But in order to work through that anger, we have to share it. In order to be healed, we must bring God all our pieces: anger, sadness, fear, and laughter. It’s all holy.

So, here’s to the immunotherapy researchers; to the doctors, nurses, and technicians and to everyone whose life is dedicated to caring for and healing us. God bless them. And most of all, God bless the gift of laughter—the one thing that may save us all.

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Prayers for President Jimmy Carter by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush – Day 1

August 14, 2015

Jimmy Carter is no stranger to cancer. In his remarkable book A Full Life: Reflections at 90 he writes of how he lost his father and two siblings to pancreatic cancer, all before they reached 60.

Now the 39th president of the United States has revealed that he too has cancer and will undergo treatment in Atlanta. Many of us who have long admired Jimmy Carter have responded with appropriate worry and call for prayer.

Given his faith, I am sure these prayers are appreciated and that the president hopes and even expects to make a full recovery. I had the privilege of interviewing the president just two weeks ago and he hardly sounded like someone who was weary of this life — if only because he told me that each day he grows more in love with Roselyn, his wife of 69 years.

However, perhaps because he has lived such a remarkable life, the president did also not appear to fear death. When I asked him about his own understanding of what happens to us when we die and what constitutes a good death he responded:

Well, I’m a Christian and I share the same faith that we all have that through our faith in Jesus Christ we are given permanent life after we are dead in some form that we don’t comprehend. I think the most simple explanation of it is Paul’s use of the seed that is like an acorn that is planted and it becomes a tree so you don’t even know what the future will be in your heavenly life. So I don’t try to assess exactly what it will be but I feel completely confident about it.

But also the basic principle in Christianity is that we don’t start living our future life after we are dead, but we start living our better future life now. And start to let our religious faith and our moral values and ambitions be shaped to do what we think is ultimately better for other people, not in some future day but in the life that we lead today.

One of the best examples of that was given to me by a Cuban-American pastor with whom I did one of my mission trips and his advice to me was that we must love God and love the person in front of us at any particular time, that’s a very profound theological statement I think and
pretty much encapsulates my religious beliefs.

While I join people around the world in wishing President Carter a full recovery and pray for his health, I am also inspired by his faith in the face of death, and his reminder to recognize that every day in this life is an opportunity to love God and love our neighbor, and to plant a seed that grows a beautiful tree in this life and in the life to come.

Jimmy Carter has spent his life planting such seeds with his presidency, his peace activism, his health work and his deep love for his friends and family. We all pray that he will have many years in front of him to plant many more seeds of peace and love in this world before he passes onto the next.

Paul Raushenbush wrote the Foreword to my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, published by SmythandHelwys.

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Thankful Thursday – Margot S. Freudenberg

On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful for the gifts that Margot S. Freudenberg brings to my life. Margot has been awarded every possible award for service to mankind that could be awarded. Never-the-less she retains her servant’s heart. She was born in Hanover, Germany and arrived in Charleston in April, 1940. She was a board member at the Speech and Hearing Center when I was a very young CEO. She lavished me with support and encouragement. She was gracious to my family. When her term expired on the board and we wanted her to remain, she taught me a great lesson, “No, Mitch,” she said. “You will always have my support. Go train somebody new.” We followed her advice for the next 30 years with rare exception. True to her word, she was there for me the remainder of my career. She was great friends with the late Dr. John Hamrick and attended many programs at First Baptist Church of Charleston. She and the late Dr. Jim Ward were also the best of friends and formed a mighty team to establish services for children with learning disabilities. Her work with the American Cancer Society is unsurpassed. There are simply not enough words to adequately convey what this wonderful lady means to Charleston and all who know her or the countless thousands who have or will benefit from her good works. Many years ago I heard her talk about becoming an American citizen which was one of the most moving, inspiring talks I have ever heard. On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful that Margot Freudenberg is a part of my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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