*This article won First Place in the Humorous Column category of the Colorado Press Association Class 2 Weekly Newspaper competition for 2011.
My husband was diagnosed with brain cancer this summer. July 7, 2011 to be exact. It’s tough to be funny when one gets news like this. In the interest of keeping this blog column upbeat, I want to offer some insight into one of the highlights of this discovery.
Ken’s work colleagues sent a care package. They are a bunch of computer geeks, and Ken was supposed to travel to California to work with them this month, so they bought a Tickle-Me Elmo doll and photographed Elmo in a variety of poses representing Ken at work. Suspiciously, most of the photos involved Elmo and snacks, Elmo goofing off in the file cabinets, or Elmo playing videogames. Hmmm. Anyway, they also sent the Elmo doll—a sort of challenge, I guess, to see if we could return pictures of Elmo, duplicating Ken at home in his new life.
We decided to put Elmo through cancer treatment along with Ken. Elmo got to sit in the ambulance, ride in a wheelchair, sit in a waiting room, look at an MRI, hug a model brain, and have his blood pressure taken. We will stop short of radiating Elmo…some jokes always get taken too far.
Interestingly, of all the gifts of food and flowers, it was the Elmo doll that proved the most distracting. Son Ben plotted for each new photo, which was a welcome diversion from being an 18-year-old hanging out in the cancer ward.
Elmo, with his bulging eyes brings a smile to other patients, too. They see Elmo and smile. They see Elmo in the wheelchair getting his photo taken and find it amusing. Some even offer other photo suggestions. For a relished second, one’s mind is released from the cancer channel to the Elmo channel and it is welcomed.
Doctor’s in this field also seem to enjoy Elmo. Playful patients must be a nice change, as most patients we have seen are desperately clinging to life, many miserably. Elmo offers a whimsical reminder that all in life is not blackness and despair. Belly tickles exist, and bring fits of laughter. Those same fits are still there, somewhere, and essential in the healing process.
Elmo is fuzzy, and brilliant red, with curly polyester fur. He gets stuffed into my new gargantuan carry-all bag with his head and arms hanging out and his bottom stuffed near the business cards of highly trained surgeons, radiation experts and chemotherapy specialists, reminding us that they all, regardless of prestigious acclaim, started out as children, curious and playful. Elmo is a stowaway. He comes along to make us smile, and does not burst into tears when he looks at us, which some do. I am beginning to like Elmo. He has grit.
Elmo is a great gift idea for those in our shape, and I share his addition to our life because I know that each of you reading this have friends, relatives or neighbors who have had life struggles and need something to uplift them. I am not guaranteeing that Elmo will have the same success with those in your life, but if you include photos, as Ken’s colleagues did, a silly little stuffed toy has a darned good shot at putting a smile on someone who really needs it.
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