Cancer and gallows humour: Thank you for the flowers 💐; I hope they die before I do! 😏

Home / Cancer / Cancer and gallows humour: Thank you for the flowers 💐; I hope they die before I do! 😏

WARNING: potentially triggering material. Very, very dark humour about cancer ahead.

4 February is World Cancer Day and… erm… conveniently, the day after is the anniversary (15 years now) of being given the oh so exciting news that I had testicular cancer… stage 4… so it had spread: 5 tumours in my stomach 🍤, 11 in my lungs 🫁 and next stop was my brain 🧠.
No worries, I’m all fine now 😊. It took 4 rounds of full-on chemotherapy (I lost all my hair so I didn’t have to shave for months – win! 👨‍🦲🙌) and then 9 years of remission (normally it’s 5). Beat that!

About a year after going through chemo, one day concerned friends inundated my inbox furious with messages about a new Facebook group – Cancer Is Funny Because People Die. Moral panic a plenty 😱! “How could people be so insensitive? Nick, you have to help us shut this down!” they all complained.
Before answering them, I did my own investigations but found nothing (the group was private). Then it occurred to me 💡… this is obviously a group by people with terminal cancer for people with terminal cancer. A typical example of dark cancer humour. I would’ve loved it!

When facing such adversity like living with terminal cancer and, not to mince my words here, the great possibility of croaking at any moment ⚰️, one of the best ways (sometimes the only way) of coping with what is, to put it lightly, not a nice predicament is to make fun of it. As they say, laughter is the best medicine 😂, so let’s go at it like a cannula into that last unmarbled vein. Humour is also a mechanism for engaging with others and expressing feelings that are otherwise hard to communicate.

However, while such jokes for many people with chronic cancer may be a cack and a major relief, for the people around them facing the possible death of a loved one or patient, or interpreters or other medical-related professionals who have not observed such situations before, hearing such humour can be quite distressing and outright tasteless [insert chemo symptom joke here].

So for the general public, please see it through our lens: it’s a coping mechanism. Humour us as we enjoy what little joy we can get as we’re feeling pretty crap as it is, just saying 😩.

And for my people with cancer, read the room 👀. Often, it’s best to keep the jokes to ourselves. They won’t get it anyway (the joke, not the cancer).

If you are one of those sick people (literally and figuratively) who are interested in having more laughs at cancer’s expense, a great place to check out is @thecancerpatient on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

Photo: me during chemo with Baxter the dialysis machine – great at pumping fluids into me but pretty hopeless as a dancing partner.