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Karen’s List: Coping with Cancer

March  09,  2016 in

Everyone loves a good list (and on the Internet, nothing gets more traffic than a list, preferably focusing on cats).  But some lists manage to find that perfect balance between purpose and humor.

This is one of those lists.

Karen Hobbs, a British stand-up comedienne, was diagnosed with Stage 1b cervical cancer in late 2014.  She underwent a complicated 4+ hour surgery called a radical trachelectomy, and one year later wanted to share some advice on how to cope with the preparation and the aftermath.

Her list, titled “Pre and Post-Surgery Top Tips” and featured on her blog “quarter-life cancer”, somehow manages to be both incredibly insightful and often hilarious.    We encourage you to click through to her full post here (or you can read a summary from Buzzfeed here).  Some of our favorites:

  1. Consume a lot of alcohol, cheese and chocolate (in the days/weeks) before the operation (these indulgences often cause nausea post-operation)
  1. When in a restaurant, talk loudly about having cancer, maybe cry a bit and the bill will (occasionally) be less than it should be.
  1. If someone says ‘can I get you a coffee?’ or ‘do you want a glass of wine?’, the answer is always ‘yes’.
  1. When your doctor asks if you feel ready to go back to work, say ‘not yet’.
  1. Get ready to be everyone’s medical guidebook. People will ask your advice on medical stuff – whether they have never met you, haven’t spoken to you in 7 yearsm or are your best friend – depending on your area of expertise…I like to feel intelligent, so wear my glasses when responding.

Karen also provides real, helpful suggestions on how to prepare and manage through your surgery, recommending cotton balls to help endure irritating oxygen tubes, chamomile lotion for skin irritations, and a general sense of understanding and openness (Leave your dignity at the hospital entrance and Don’t worry that you’re not coping properly).

And then there’s this:

  1. Enjoy the awkward moments. For example, when I went back to work after my two month vaycay, this conversation happened:Colleague:  Hi Karen, did you have a good holiday?

    Me:  I didn’t go on holiday, I had an operation.

    Colleague:  Oh, what was it?  Did you have your tonsils out or something?

    Me:  No, no.  My cervix.

    It was wonderfully uncomfortable, and I loved it.

Sometimes, the easiest way to emotionally cope with a difficult diagnosis is to find the humor in the absurdity.  We applaud Karen on her courage and creativity, and wish her the best in her continued recovery.

What would you add to Karen’s list?

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