Ros Feature Image

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be positive when cancer has turned your entire world inside out, but we can still look for ways to focus on things that make life a little bit easier, things that give you joy and sharing good times with people that you care about. That’s what we’re talking about today with Ros – she is a cancer survivor who is incredibly passionate about healing and wellness and wrote a book called: “Laughing at Cancer:  How to Heal with Love, Laughter, and Mindfulness”.  Here are some things we cover today:

  • Reframing the way we perceive cancer
  • Staying connected in these trying times
  • The healing power of laughter and mindfulness
  • and much, much more!


Laughing at cancer

LaughLife Wellbeing Programs

CancerAid: Australia’s No.1 Cancer Management and Support App

Episode 021: Laugh Your Way To A Better Life Despite Cancer

Full Transcript

Joe:                 Ros, what I want to start with first is, I want to ask you how did you find out that you had cancer?

Ros:                 I had some mucus and blood in my stools.  As much as I was concerned, I wasn’t really alarmed because a couple of years before that, I’d had a Yardi Parasite, which we think we got from a family holiday in Thailand.  I just thought, “All right, I picked up another parasite.” I went to the doctor and I’d actually done a stool test and nothing came back.  Anyway, the symptoms just kept getting more and more, and the doctor, she didn’t know what to do with me.  She said, “Right, let’s just get you checked out.  I really don’t expect them to be able to find anything, but we’ll just do it.  Peace of mind.” I had a colonoscopy and woke up from the anaesthetic, and the gastroenterologist said, “You’re one lucky lady, we just removed a polyp, but all looks well.  See you later.”

Joe:                 That’s a good start.

Ros:                 Yes, well, there was no story then.   Then four days later, or five days, I can’t really remember, but basically, the gastroenterologist knocking on the door saying, “Really sorry, got that wrong, it’s actually really nasty and there are some cells outside that polyp.  Really need to refer you onto a colorectal specialist to see what your options are.” That’s what I did.  I went along to the colorectal specialist.  I had my 43rd birthday spent in his consulting suite.  I was essentially given three options.  One was, to do nothing more and to just keep my fingers crossed that the cancer hadn’t spread.

The second option was to do a partial bowel resection, which would have most likely dealt with the situation but again, no certainty because even with all the advances in medical technology, the only way to assess the length in the bowel, is to do a full bowel resection.  You can’t access the length any other way.  The only way that I could with 100 percent certainty know what we’re dealing with, was to opt for a bowel resection.  That entailed, because the polyp was in my rectum and very low down, it’s quite difficult for healing.  I was told I’d be getting a temporary ileostomy, so that bag that sits on the outside of your stomach for three or so months during the healing.

Joe:                 Crap.

Ros:                 Yes, crap on the outside.  Sorry, Joe, I joke.  I asked the question that nobody really wants to ask and once you’ve asked, you think, “Why did I ask that?” I said, “Do you have any idea as to how the likelihood or the percentage of the cancer having spread?” He said he didn’t, he said it could be two to three and then I saw another specialist a week or so later or within that week and he thought maybe three to five.  Nobody knew.  At the time, I thought, I was lecturing in health promotion.  Done a Master of Public Health.  I’ve done quite a bit of work with statistics and I hate statistics.

When we talk about statistics, when it’s someone else and when it’s a population, one/two/three percent, it doesn’t sound that much.  That percentage sitting in me, with two boys aged 12 and 15, it kept weighting heavier and heavier and heavier.  The choice that I thought I wasn’t going to make, which was the full bowel resection, the ileostomy was the only choice for me.  I knew what anxiety or doubt would do to me over time.

Joe:                 Yes, exactly.  That’s the other side, one is the medical adventures that you go through, all these decisions that you have to make.  How did you take it all mentally and emotionally, how did you react to it all?

Ros:                 Well, I really liken it to just having just a ton of liquid led weights.  I just felt so heavy from head to toe.  It was just like totally overwhelmed.  Ironically, months prior, I had actually been asked to facilitate a party for a corporate business.  I was so excited, I thought, “Yay, finally hitting the corporate world.” As it transpired, this was scheduled three days before my major surgery.  I just thought, feeling the way that I was, how would I be able to get myself through this? I did.  I turned up and I almost lost it a couple of times, just pointed out some of the health benefits of laughter and then actually ran a laughter session.

I was amazed that it was the first time since the diagnosis, which had been two plus weeks before that, that I actually felt lighter.  That I felt a lot more prepared to face what was going to be in the near future, a five and a half hour plus surgery.  It’s all-consuming.  When you do get bad news, it’s like darkness descends, the weight descends.  You just, at the time, just can’t shake it.  Maybe people can but it was a big one and totally out of the blue.  It’s not like my family had a history of bowel cancer.  Later in life, there were some little polyps and that, they were always found.  Nobody died of bowel cancer, I’ll put it that way.

Joe:                 Cool.  Ros, there’s a lot of really unhelpful language around cancer, the way we talk about it, what’s your perspective on that?

Ros:                 I’m really pleased that you asked that because it’s actually one of my pet – I wouldn’t say pet hates – but it’s something that I’m really conscious of.  One of the first things that I was really wary of was my boys hearing that mom’s got the big-C, that mom’s got cancer.  From the very onset, I decided that I was going to refer to my cancer almost like the little-c.  As far as I was concerned, until I had evidence otherwise, I had a malignant polyp in my bowel.  I contained it to a specific area as I possibly could, which enabled the rest of me to be in a state of wellbeing.  Far more empowering.

When someone is given a label of a cancer diagnosis, it’s like the whole of a person has cancer.  The same could be said about someone who has diabetes, as opposed to being diabetic.  Or someone has a disability, as opposed to being disabled.  You’re actually empowering and emphasising the healthy and well side, which is especially important to somebody who really needs some healing happening.  I was really grateful in that it still remained the little-C.  Thank god it wasn’t terminal, then it would have been something, the language would have been different.

To some people, it might sound semantic but for me, I knew that I would be able to recover from something much more contained and specific than a whole of cancer diagnosis.  It was something that I really wanted to, in terms of the kids and the way that they dealt with it, I thought it was really important for them that they also knew that mum’s just got something going on in her bowel, in this part of the bowel.  That really is so helpful.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s a great perspective for us, because you’re really putting cancer in its place.

Ros:                 Yes, well, as I say, it’s no different than anything else.  Like, why would you want to dilute the healthy aspect or put more emphasis on this negative thing than you need to.  As I say, contained and specific, and all being well, it’s nothing more than that.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s very powerful, Ros.  In terms of people around you, how did they react, and did they support you in the way that you wanted to be supported?

Ros:                 Again, it’s a good question because the reality is that whenever anybody goes through any form of adversity or challenges, unless you live by yourself on an island, other people are involved.  It’s really difficult, essentially, my role was mum first and foremost.  They were used to mum going and doing the shopping, the cooking, as well as working and etc.  All of a sudden, there was a lot more responsibly placed on other people in the family.  There was a lot of fear.  I think my husband went in to practical mode, what could he do practically to help?

That was the first thing.  The kids, it’s hard, in terms of the nuclear family and who was around me, yes, I felt beloved, yes, I knew I was supported, but it’s too much almost for one nuclear family to deal with.  That’s where you need to know that you can’t get everything from one person.  You need to know, okay, if I’m not getting enough emotional support from the kids or whatever, is there a friend that I can call upon? What can I do to bring into my world the support that I need, rather than just lay back and think, “Shit, I’m just feeling so low, I don’t have the support.  My family just don’t get me.”

In your own way, you identify what it is that you need and in the best way possible, try to communicate those needs.  Which I might just add, I wasn’t great at doing that.  I think that some people find it easier asking for help.  I might not look like it, but I’m relatively fiercely independent.  That can be really hard when you actually become dependent and you go from an independent role to a dependent role, to a person to a patient.  It really is a very emotionally challenging time.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely, Ros.  You’re so right about saying that it’s so difficult.  It is so difficult to ask for help because on the one hand, you don’t want to look weak, also, you don’t want to put some kind of a burden on someone else.  At the same time, for anyone who’s gone through cancer, there are times when you feel overwhelmed, miserable and alone.  You need to find ways to communicate to people in your life.

Ros:                 That’s right.  The thing is, for me, as I say, I was 42 when I got this diagnosis.  Most people tend to be in an older demographic for bowel cancer.  It’s interesting because now through bowel cancer Australia, they’ve got a peer-buddy mentor system of which I am a buddy.  That didn’t exist at the time.  I just happened to have a friend who knew somebody, a friend of a sister, who lived somewhere in Northern New South Wales and was a similar age to me.  We actually became phone buddies.  That was really important because I could talk to her about things.  The things that you deal with, they’re not necessarily things that your husband wants to know or that your kids need to know.

They’re just really tough, especially all things bowel and where the operation is going to be.  It’s very close to all of the female reproductive system.  There was just a lot of considerations and things going on.  Just to have someone that’d been through it and was at the other side.  I think that was really important to me, to actually have someone in my life at the time, she was six months advanced down the track to where I was.  She was a bit of a beacon of light.  Right, well, she has similar circumstances to me and look where she is now.  Isn’t that fantastic? That’s where I’m going to be.

Joe:                 Yes.  Totally, Ros, it’s an incredibly empowering experience talking to someone that’s one step, several steps ahead of you.  I had testicular cancer, which is also a bit awkward because it’s down there.  It’s my balls, right? It’s been really helpful, when I was in hospital, it just so happened that I was put in the same hospital room with a guy who was also in the same situation.  It was really great to hear his perspective on what helped him deal with it in terms of managing his energy and how he responded to treatment and all of that sort of stuff.  Yes.  That’s something that I would highly recommend to anyone going through cancer, is to really find people who have been through it, whether that’s online, whether that’s in-person, wherever that can be done.

Ros:                 Yes.  We’re both involved with CancerAid.  They’re trying to also create a community.  I think that it’s so important because it’s such an isolating, scary time, but the more you can connect to people and just feel like you’re not alone.  That’s interesting, I was actually just reading something about loneliness.  Loneliness is a subjective thing.  If you feel alone, even if you’re in a crowd of people.  Loneliness, over time, it’s really damaging on our health.  It’s equivalent to being a heavy smoker and it can make you 14 times more prone to chronic illness over time.  In the short spurt of time, with the loneliness and the isolation, in order to heal, you need to be in the best mental state that you can be.

You need to feel that there are people around you that really care about you when you’re feeling lonely or alone, you might just feel that they don’t really get it.  They can’t get it.  You start to withdraw.  I think that’s quite a natural thing.  That is not a constructive way to empower healing and your mental state.  The opposite of loneliness and all of that negativity is actually tapping into a positive mindset, which is far beyond people saying, “It’s important to be positive.” Again, that’s something that I have some issues with because being positive is very passive.

You need something active.  You need stuff to actually go from positive to positivity.  Positivity is where you can actually change the way that your brain functions.  You can change tapping into your happy hormones, your dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, all of those things, which really assist whatever else is going on.  Whether you’re having medical treatment, whether you’re going through emotional stuff, if you can tap into this positivity, it really just helps people advance in their wellbeing so much more, no matter what’s going on around them.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  For me, positivity is only about looking into the future and negativity is about looking into the past, that’s all that is.

Ros:                 Yes.

Joe:                 Ros, what’s helped you the most in terms of dealing with cancer, like, mentally and psychologically?

Ros:                 Talking about positivity, essentially, very early on I adopted the mantra, let the doctors take charge of my illness.  That I took charge of my wellness.  Very early on, I started writing.  Now, journaling is known to be a very therapeutic tool.  For me, it was just something natural that I wanted to do.  It was for me.  Within a couple of entries into my diary, I started to have this imaginary discussion with the future readership, because I just realised whatever I was going through, I was sure that there were other people that were going through similar stuff, like the specific particulars would have been different, but essentially thrown into that whole new unknown scary world.

As you know, I am a laughter yoga facilitator and I had for years on the side been running laughter sessions for people and telling people about laughed being the best medicine.  The irony is, that after bowel surgery, laughter is the last thing in the world you can physically do, even if you wanted to.  You could barely breathe.  It took about five or so weeks until I could laugh more comfortably, and it wasn’t like torture.  I had to really think, right, so this thing that I’ve taken for granted all of my life, it’s gone temporarily.  What can I do to tap into those endorphins? Endorphins being our bodies endogenous morphine.  30 times more powerful than the synthetic version.

I knew they were powerful.  I knew that in the sessions I had run with people doing laughter, I had asked if people before the session, to make a mental note if they had any pain or discomfort, then I’d ask them after the session if they had that? It was amazing how many people forgotten, “Do I have a headache?” I knew that endorphins and tapping into endorphins was really powerful.  The question is, how could I tap into endorphins when I really didn’t feel like doing so and without the laughter.  Laughing by yourself when you’re feeling crappy is just wasn’t something that I felt that comfortable about doing.

Joe:                 It’s not easy.

Ros:                 No, it’s not easy.  There were a few things that I did which were really, really powerful.  The first thing being, smiling mindfulness, essentially breathing very shallowly initially, but just sitting with a smile and directing the smile from my face into particularly the areas that were filled with pain and imagining, visualising this powerful smile just residing in that part of my body.  Just those endorphins filtering through.  It was that in conjunction with the breathing really changed the way that I felt instantaneously.  That was a daily practice.  It was not like I put a time limit on it, but probably 15/20 minutes.

The other thing that I did, and I still do, like I do with the smiling mindfulness and I highly recommend, especially because I do quite a bit of coaching work.  I found that it sounds so simple, but it has been so powerful, is recounting three things that went well in your day.  Now, this is evidence-based stuff, Joe, this isn’t stuff that I just dreamed up.  This comes out of the school of positive psychology.  Basically, they did studies with people with chronic anxiety and depression.  After a 12-week study, that even after 6 weeks, they found that the group that recounted three things that went well in their day had a significant increase in positive effect and a significant decrease in negative effect.

Much more positive feeling, much less negative feeling.  What that basically does it, I did this practice as I was just lying in bed for the night, it essentially put a break on the ruminating thoughts, because when you start to think of things that went well or things that are positive or good, you’re not thinking about the things that are bad, negative or didn’t go well.  Even if they were small things like, wow, I managed to walk down three houses today, that’s so cool.  Or, I had such a nice visitor today, or I managed to eat something without significant abdominal discomfort.

Essentially, what that does is, it trains your brain to notice the good and the more that you notice the good, the stronger that neural pathway to noticing the good is.  It weakens the tracks in the brain that are wired to always thinking about all the things that didn’t go well.  What you bring your attention to, what you focus on, that is what grows.  You can either choose to focus on all the stress and all of the fear and all of the frustration.  The F-words, that I call them.

Joe:                 Nice.

Ros:                 Or, you can actually focus on – to really make a conscious choice to focus on the good things.  These micro moments of joys.  The small things that went well because the more that you actually look for them, the more that you will see.  That’s really important for somebody in any sort of terms of being connected to their mental health and enhance people’s wellbeing.  Conscious gratitude practice was critical to me, the smiling mindfulness was really important.  The other thing that was really powerful for me and I highly recommend is reframing.  Now, we had a little bit of a chat before about the big-C versus the little-C, that is an example of reframing.

Reframing the language around cancer to something that sits better with you.  I’ll give you another example.  I never liked the terminology of a bowel reversal, which was the operation I was going to be having to delete the ileostomy and reconnect the bowel.  For me, reversal was going back to the way things were, it was negative, I didn’t want that negative terminology.  In my way, I reframed it that I would refer to this operation as a bowel reconnection.  It’s so much more positive, it’s future focused, and, again, I went into that operation feeling a lot more empowered than had I gone in – this is just for me, it’s not necessarily for anyone – than saying I was having a bowel reversal.

I was having a bowel reconnection.  There are so many other ways that we can reframe to actually find a little glimmer of hope, to find some positivity in a negative or really challenging situation.  It’s really important, if you can actually write down a particular challenging time that you’ve had in your life and try to just envisage, was there some unanticipated positive something that happened? Or did something make you smile or laugh along the way? Is there anything good that has come out of that? Is there something good that you can see? What that actually does is help your brain recall that incident differently.  It actually takes away some of that trauma.

It takes away some of that pain.  It taps into a lot of that stuff that we even carry around in our subconscious mind, we’re not even conscious about it.  It helps us change the way we remember that particular episode.  I think that especially people that have been going through intense medical regimens, that can be really helpful.  Sitting with trauma, I don’t think we understand how much trauma we carry around with us, it’s long-term, it’s not a good thing.

Reframing, smiling mindfulness and conscious gratitude were things that really powerfully helped me create, and I won’t say maintain because it was an ongoing challenge, that emphasised that positive mindset.  Now, six years down the track, I know that even if I might start down the, “This is happening…” I can stop myself, I’ve got that mindful awareness now to say, “Right, that’s not helpful, let’s think, is there anything good that’s come?” In this moment, what can I appreciate? In this moment, what, if anything, there must be something that is going well that’s okay.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic, Ros, that you filter things through hope and try to look at things from a different perspective, from a perspective which is a lot more helpful.

Ros:                 Yes.

Joe:                 Ros, I know that laughter and cancer don’t necessarily always go together, we just talked about that, but I heard about the laughter yoga from my friend Khevin.  I know you have some unique strategies around that.  Could you talk about what that is for you?

Ros:                 Laughter is a very powerful modality, when you laugh, it’s very oxygenating.  You try laughing without breathing.  You can’t do it.

Joe:                 Yes.

Ros:                 Again, it’s tapping into those endorphins, it helps strengthen our immune system, it lowers the blood pressure.  Basically, it’s an extraordinary stress buster.  Any situation that you can have a laugh about, not necessarily into someone’s face or being disrespectful, but in that respectful context, choosing to laugh is a really important thing.  It’s about not leaving laughter to chance.  The times that we tend to need to laugh the most, for the health benefits of laughter, are the times when we feel like laughing the least.  Getting a bowel cancer diagnosis is one of those moments, it’s not really a laugh-out-loud moment.  Being able to actually choose to, for example, to either in your own time watch comedy as opposed to the news.

Just in your own time, choose what friends that you decide to associate with, people that bolster your mood and make you feel good, or the ones that think about all the worries and fears that you haven’t even thought of and bring you down.  It’s about deciding what you do in your own time to bring more laughter in.  For example, it’s really powerful in terms of anxiety, to counter anxiety and depression.  I remember 12 months down the track, I actually had my follow-up, a CT scan, and a follow-up appointment with the colorectal specialist.  He said, “Everything is looking good, Ros.  Although, there’s a little growth on your liver and I think that’s worth getting checked out.” It’s like, what? Of course, I went back to the gastroenterologist that had done the initial colonoscopy.

He said, “Listen, I’m pretty confident that it’s a benign liver cist, but I’ll organise for an MRI, but you’ve had so much going on, you can wait a couple of months.” Again, it’s like the irrational part of my mind kicked in, it’s like, hold on, you told me that my polyp was fine, and it wasn’t.  It’s like, I’ve got this thing on my liver.  I ended up having a post-traumatic response to 12 months down track, to so much what I went through.  I was so strong about all of it.  Then I was thinking, gosh, if this is like anything that’s not benign, I don’t know how I’m going to cope.  I’ve got really quite chronic anxiety.  I really sat, I did a lot of breathing mindfulness.  A lot, a lot, a lot of conscious breathing which definitely helped.  It wasn’t enough to boost my mood.

What I would do was, I wasn’t comfortable about laughing just out loud at home, because you’ve got to find something that works for you.  For me, when I was in my car, I would pretend that I was just having a hilarious conversation with someone and literally, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, for like a few minutes at traffic lights, whatever.  It didn’t worry me that people would look in and think, “She’s having fun with a friend or something.” It was the most powerful thing that I could do to essentially help eliminate a lot of anxiety, it really, if my anxiety levels were, say, at an eight, they would be brought down to a four in moments.  That sounds crazy, but it is so powerful because, again, when you’re laughing, you’re in that moment of joy.  You’ve left all of your troubles behind.  You’re flattering your system with these endorphins.

You’re also, because of the breathing aspect, as well, you’re basically tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is our other nervous system to the sympathetic nervous system.  What happens on a daily basis or when we’re going through stress or basically, probably a lot of listenership, would be able to relate, is that this stress system, this sympathetic nervous system just doesn’t switch off.  It’s in overdrive.  We’ve just been bombarded with all of these things that we’ve got to do and the next test results and waiting for that test result and thinking about what might be.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the nervous system that calms our whole body down.  It ushers that feeling of calm into our body.  Breathing helps really trigger what’s called the relaxation response and then the laughter, not only is because you’ve got to breathe to laugh, but it taps into the endorphins.  It’s just like this instantaneous circuit breaker.  It just changes your whole physiology.  It’s making decisions, choices to laugh out loud.  If a re-run of Seinfeld on, rather than just sit on the couch with a smile, it would be to actually consciously choose to laugh-out-loud, and really laugh, and share a laugh with people.

One of the most powerful things when I came out of hospital and about week-five when I could start to laugh again was our family of four squeezing onto our couch.  Watching a comedy.  Just as a family, it connected us, it just helped get rid of a lot of the stress and the anxiety and it’s like, yay, we’re laughing again.  Mum’s okay.  We’re laughing.  It’s really – some people can be a bit disparaging about it.

Honestly, it’s such an important thing.  I don’t think that we would have been given the gift of laughter if it wasn’t important.  We smile, and we laugh before we talk.  That’s how we used to communicate.  It’s really important that the problem is that when we go through stuff, the laughter gets deeper and deeper within.  It’s like you quite rightly don’t feel that it is a laughing out loud time.  In some way that feels right to you, it’s essential, it’s really essential for your mental wellness, to the people around you and yes, it’s a beautiful thing.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  That’s fantastic, Ros.  Tell us about your Laugh Out Loud project, how did that come about?

Ros:                 In aged care, I was, at the time, lecturing at the Tribune University and I had got chatting to one of the nursing staff there.  She had a secondment with a large age care facility.  Essentially, we devised a laughter activities program for 35 age care facilities across Victoria.  Where 30 minutes for 6 weeks we would run 30 minutes of laughter.  It was laughter yoga.  The laughter exercises and the breathing and the clapping.  It was really powerful.  We measured blood pressure and heart rate before and after each session.  We also did it a couple of times at the beginning, the middle and at the end of the study, we measured out positive and negative effect.

Also, happiness.  Again, it was really powerful.  Thinking that in six weeks, we found the blood pressure consistently dropped at the end of the session, not too low.  There was less negative effect.  Just watching people social connect, just after a session or before, or people with dementia who had very low levels of communication, one lady who barely talked, but when I went before, she’d seen me coming down the corridor, “There’s the laughter lady.” It’s like, wow, that’s amazing, she can barely talk, “Here’s the laughter lady.” As I said to you, laughter is something that we’re born with and it’s one of the first means of communication.

The amazing thing was that even people with dementia could laugh.  It came back to them.  Even once their language had gone and even if they couldn’t laugh, they could smile.  Or even just being in that atmosphere, in that environment, you could just feel a shift.   When you get older, you tend to get less active, the wonderful thing is, there were some comments of people, they felt that they were getting an aerobic workout.  They felt so much better for it.

Even people with really limited mobility could do this.  after that particular project, we then trained staff, so still to this day, many of the facilities are running various laughter programs or adding laughter activities as part of already existing activities.  If they’re doing gardening, they might pretend they’ve got a spade and laugh.  As they’re digging in the ground and pulling out this beautiful carrot or whatever it is.  Yes, that was a really beautiful project to be a part of.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s really spectacular.  To be known as the laughter lady in your life, I think that’s exactly what you want.

Ros:                 Yes, it certainly beats the anxiety lady or the depression lady.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely, Ros.  Tell us about your book, as well.

Ros:                 Yes, okay.  As I said, I started writing journals, as I say, very much, it started with myself.  I found that at the end of each chapter, I was just including sticky notes of question to people.  It’s like, I wonder if other people’s friendship circles change, or was there some part of their diagnosis terminology that they weren’t happy with? Did they reframe the language around that? Then I’d also include just various techniques that I would consider, like the conscious gratitude practice or smiling mindfulness, or walking mindfulness.  Things that I did that I experimented with.  I think before my experience with the bowel cancer, in a way, all these things were a bit theoretical.

When you actually have to live them, then you really feel and find out if they are right for you.  I would experiment with lots of different things, like reframing and that.  Quite early on, I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t just going to keep it to myself, that especially like you’ve had testicular cancer, people don’t like talking about bowel cancers.  I could get in trouble saying this, but there are sexier cancers and in terms of funding and things like that.  I’m quite comfortable talking about bowel cancer.  I’m quite comfortable talking about these things that other people aren’t comfortable talking about.

It’s really important to have conversations about these things that other people aren’t comfortable talking about.  It’s really important to have conversations about these things.  To feel that you’re not alone.  What you’re doing is so important, Joe, these podcasts, really hats off to you.  It’s really important for people to feel that there are other people going through similar things and perhaps these things that you didn’t even dare to think about or vocalise, I’m happy to put my experience to help other people.  I’m really happy to do that.  Thankfully, my family were on board, so I had, at the end of a year or so, about three journals, then over the next year, I wrote another one, as well.

There were four journals.  I had decided at the time I didn’t want to do anything with them.  There were two things about it.  I didn’t want to be defined by bowel cancer, I wanted to spend more time in the wellness world.  The other thing was, I had this fear that I would be stepping back into a dark space and I just needed time out.  The interesting thing is, that a few years after that, which was prompted by various friends getting not nice diagnoses.  Then I said, right, it’s time.  I went back, I dug out my journals and I realised that they actually weren’t as negative as I thought.  I think I must have been deluded.

I wasn’t even on drugs.  I don’t know why I was, but I realised that they were actually a really useful and positive way to enhance other people along their illness to wellness journeys, as such.  My first working title was: I Heal, You Heal.  Then I really wasn’t comfortable about the laughing at cancer, as a title, because the title: Laughing at Cancer, how to heal with love, laughter, and mindfulness.  The last thing that I wanted was for people to think that I was laughing at cancer and making fun of it and it’s a funny matter, because it’s not, people die of cancer tragically, or go through a lot of pain.  For me, laughter was more a metaphor, really, for finding something that we can do to orientate our mindset to positivity opposing adversity.

My book is essentially structured about, so each chapter is something that I’ve been processing or dealing with.  At the end of each chapter, there’s reader engagement, healing strategies, techniques, etc.  As much as it’s about me, it’s not.  It’s really an invitation for other people to explore aspects of their own life, of their own life journey really.  I have been very positively overwhelmed by even people who haven’t had cancer, that they’ve found it really helpful.  Even my 86-year-old, my husband’s uncle, send him my book, I really want him to read.  He’s told me that he now every night he thinks about three things that went well in his day.  He feels so much better for it.  It’s such a privilege to be able to birth a book and to get feedback.

To feel that in some small way, perhaps I may have inspired a bit of change, or I may have been able to just help someone connect to their joy, connect to their positivity, where they thought that it was the last thing in the world they could do.  In a way, I’m trying to give permission to people to allow that to happen.  People feel that if you’re going through grief or if you’re going through a cancer or something like that, that you’re not entitled to joy, to happiness, to having some pleasure, but it’s really important to make those moments, to not leave them to chance.

Joe:                 Thank you so much, Ros.  That’s such a fantastic point.  Thank you so much for your brutal honesty.  Those words really all need to be said.

Ros:                 Thank you so much.  If anybody is interested, my book: “Laughing at Cancer: How to Heal with Love, Laughter, and Mindfulness”.  It’s available online, bookshops.  If you know someone who really think might want a personal inscription, please go to my website:  Send me an email and I’m happy to throw in the postage, so you wouldn’t pay anymore.  I’m happy to write in it for someone because I know that sometimes that can just make a bit of a difference to someone.

Joe:                 Fantastic.  Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your perspective.