Finding Humor in Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Mark Kantrowitz
Mark Kantrowitz

[Guest Blog Post by Mark Kantrowitz] 

I was diagnosed with stage III testicular seminoma at age 36, two weeks after the birth of my son. 

My wife was in the nursery when I told her that I thought I might have testicular cancer. She asked, how do you know? Well, I said, I’ve grown a third testicle. Oh, she responded. 

I was treated with surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy. 

I experienced every rare side effect of treatment, including peripheral edema, peripheral neuropathy, Raynaud’s phenomenon, pancreatitis, gallstones, diabetes, tinnitus, high pitch hearing loss, migraines, skin changes, and pain and numbness in the extremities. 

But, better to be alive with side effects than dead without. 

One of the ways I coped with the stress of my cancer diagnosis and the challenges of treatment was to write cancer jokes. My friends and family also wrote a few jokes. It was a great way of releasing the tension and taking my mind off of the cancer. It also helped improve my sense of tumor. 

Ever start chewing a stick of gum after forgetting to remove the tinfoil? Platinum-based chemotherapy is sort of like that, except that there’s no gum in the tinfoil. Cancer patients quickly learn that there’s no treat in treatment. But, chemotherapy does come with some benefits. It works wonders as a mosquito repellant. 

Cancer diagnosis and treatment is like riding a roller coaster, with many ups and downs, and an opportunity for nausea and vomiting. But, the vomiting doesn’t make you feel better. 

We all go through an occasional scare, even after the end of treatment. Four years after my initial diagnosis, a radiologist noticed a mass in my pancreas, about a centimeter in size. They compared it with an earlier CT scan and it was present there as well, the same size. 

Two biopsies were inconclusive, other than ruling out metastasis from my original cancer. After a gastroenterologist told me I’d be dead in a year, I opted for surveillance on the advice of my oncologist and a second and third opinion. I’m still alive, 18 years after my original diagnosis, so, clearly, the gastroenterologist was wrong. This gave me enough time to finish writing my cancer joke book, Tumor Humor, as well as a few additional anecdotes. 

Mark Kantrowitz is the author of Tumor Humor, a book of cancer jokes and anecdotes. He is a long-term cancer survivor and after being diagnosed with cancer two weeks after the birth of his son, Mark wrote cancer jokes to help cope with the challenges of his treatment. To learn more about Mark at and follow him on Twitter @MKant

Mark is part of the Official NCSD Speakers Bureau Roster. To access the Roster, register your event today.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email