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Front Porch: To faith, hope and love, add humor

There’s nothing funny about cancer.

Neither chemotherapy and its side effects of nausea, lack of appetite, hand-foot syndrome, hair loss, and lack of feeling in the hands, nor the surgeries, infusions, radiation treatments, fatigue and the mental fog that is part of the full meal deal. Not funny in the slightest.

But, for Deborah and me, humor – along with tears and an occasional well-placed expletive – has proven a safe and effective treatment. And there’s never been a co-pay!

In addition to the daily comics, puns, gun control debates and blogs about rude-and-crude customers, some of the humor that’s kept us both going flows from my incompetence attempting to fill her shoes.

As she’s spent many days down for the count, I’ve struggled at roles she excels at. Unlike Deborah, I get lost at the market and fail to stay within the grocery budget.

After six months I’m just beginning to understand the layout of the Sullivan Road Fred Meyer and I’ve learned Deborah has a knack for finding the best deals and knowing how much things cost. If Congress were all-female there wouldn’t be a deficit. With me, cash shortfalls at the register seem to come naturally.

Not only does she know the local markets like the back of her hand, she knows how to cook. Her brownies are so good, we have a family saying (apologies to the Apostle Paul), “There’s no forgiveness without the baking of brownies.”

On her bad days, and there have been quite a few, I’ve prepared meals using my limited set of culinary skills, which are pretty much restricted to chilled milk, scrambled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot dogs. And leftovers.

Hard to believe someone who once made a living programming computers would be paranoid about microwave ovens. Yet, I am.

I’m OK now with defrosting bread but I still refuse to read the manual.

Deborah and the microwave have a Vulcanlike mind meld I just don’t get.

What’s living with a cancer patient been like? Moody? Check. Irritable? Check. Fatigue? Check again. Occasional bouts of grumpiness, frustration and anger? You bet. And I’m just talking about myself.

After 31 years of marriage, I’ve learned and observed some things about my wife:

• She’s tough. After her first chemo, she made me cut off her hair in our backyard, in plain sight of the Central Valley High School practice fields.

• She’s sensitive. After I used a razor to finish up the haircut, she burst into tears when she saw her now-bald self in the mirror.

• She knows things that I don’t. And she’s way, way smarter than I am.

• She’s a better writer than I am. And a very capable sesquipedalian, to boot.

• She gets along great with all the doctors and nurses – who are real heroes to me.

• She’s laughed a whole lot more than she’s cried, a true “Eshet Chayil,” a woman of valor.

• She read the manual to the microwave.

Like a gift from above, humor dusts off our spirits and picks us up time and time again. Without it we’d both be in despair after each unexpected side effect, doctor visit and medical test.

Somehow humor is entwined with faith, hope and love.

Not sure exactly how that works. I just know that it does.

- Richard Chan’s wife, Deborah, is a regular contributor to the Front Porch. (This story has been updated to show that Richard Chan is the author of the opinion piece, not Cindy Hval.)

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