On The Lighter Side

I am a firm believer that laughter is good medicine. When I was first diagnosed with two opthalmic arterial anerysms in May of 2014, that news as you might imagine, was not funny. My husband and I were trying to absorb the news and sort through all the decisions that came with it while at the same time trying to enjoy the coming summer months. We had gone camping the first weekend in June and were hiking a pretty strenuous hill when I started laughing.

“What’s funny?” he asked.

“I’ve decided to name my aneurysms Jack and Jill.”

I had been focusing on the hill and my pulse pounding in my ears…kind of ominous when you have aneurysms lurking in your brain, when suddenly I decided, ‘I do not want my days to be like this. Fearful. Worried.’

I decided the easiest way to lessen the threat was to personalize them and name them! Silly? Absolutely! That’s the point. The moment I made them silly they lost their big, scary threat. I mean, really Jack and Jill vs opthalmic arterial aneurysms? It felt so good to laugh! Obviously, since my brain hemorrhage the following December after the second procedure to rid me of Jack, it got a little more difficult to laugh. But, I managed. With the help of my very cute husband and some awesome therapists, I learned to laugh in the midst of my sorrow.

One of my husband’s responsibilities became doing my lip and facial exercises with me. He was no slacker and he wouldn’t let me either. One of the exercises involved puffing up my cheeks tight with air. My job was to do my best to keep him from squeezing the air out. He loved squeezing my cheeks in rapid succession to get a machine gun sounding raspberry out of my lips. We would both laugh so hard it was impossible to continue. And it was great facial exercise!

The effects of my brain damage are certainly uncomfortable for me. But also funny. I challenge you to sit in front of a mirror and try putting on your clothes with one working arm. One Sunday I was working hard to pull on a pair of stockings, at one point I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I just cracked up! I looked for all the world like a puppy chasing its tail! Another Sunday I got stuck in my dress while trying to pull it on over my head. Once again, Steve to the rescue. I’m not sure who was funnier. Me stuck in the folds of my dress, or him trying to find the neck opening in the dress to get me unstuck. I’d pay money for video of that particular adventure.

I recently confided in my friend, Dorothy, that I was wanting to try and get back to stage acting, a former passion, but that I was self conscious about auditioning because of my left arm. It is still mostly paralyzed. I was telling her I knew it would be very awkward to try and do basic stage movements without it being obvious that something was wrong. We were in the middle of a singing lesson. She continued putting me through my vocal exercises and suddenly began laughing.

She said, “You know how when your kids were toddlers and you had to take them with you everywhere? Usually holding them to keep them out of mischief?”

“Yes.”

“Think of your left arm as that mischievous toddler.”

I got it immediately and started laughing with her.

“I know…I’ll introduce myself and my arm…This is my left arm, it just kind of hangs there and ocassionally gets in the way. If you see my hand suddenly tremble violently pay it no mind, I’ll just grab it with my other hand and it will stop.”

You see, the other things I have to deal with in my arm are completely involuntary, such as the clonus, (violent trembling, or spasms). Another fun fact; when I yawn for some reason it stimulates my bicep to contract. So my left arm bends at the elbow when I yawn. It also does that when I’m nervous, cold or tense. So, I really never know what the darn thing is going to be doing. I just know it is hilarious to watch me try to get it under control. Kind of like controlling a misbehaving toddler.

So, I laugh. It beats crying all the time. It’s ok if you laugh too.

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