Laughter Yoga and Cancer - A Personal Tale of HealingGo Back Marlene Chertok, United States 4 January 2017
I have officially arrived at my 8 year cancer free mark. Every year feels like a milestone and a blessing. I have restored my health and feel better and more joyful than I did before my cancer diagnosis in 2002. The cancer has ended up being a blessing because it led me on this amazing journey of discovery and healing that I would never have gone on otherwise.
I began doing laughter yoga in 2004 as a way to boost my immune system and increase my natural killer tcell response. I was also trying to improve my breathing. I was an asthmatic and a very shallow breather. I had read that cancer cells do not survive well in areas of good oxygenation. So I wanted to see if I could change my breathing. I was also trying to change my way of looking at things to a more positive response. There was a fair amount of research I found on the way positive emotions affected the immune system. I did do chemo and surgery at the start - but I was acutely aware, as a registered nurse, that I needed to do whatever I could to try to prevent a recurrence. I had no idea if any of this would work.
I started the St Louis Laughter Club in 2004 with a small group of other breast cancer survivors. I convinced them of the research that implicated this could be important to our recovery. More importantly, there were no adverse effects, it would not do any harm and we would have fun! I decided if I was going to die, I would die laughing! I have been laughing regularly now for 6 1/2 years. Obviously, I have felt benefit or I would not still be doing this. It appears that I am going to get to live awhile longer instead!
So here is what has happened. I have only been sick 1 time with a cold in the last 3 years. My asthma symtoms are gone. I have not used an inhaler in over 2 years. If I don't laugh and do pranyama yogic breathing exercises, I notice the difference and will hear slight wheezes returning. I remain cancer free.
The laughter yoga has definitely helped me to get away from the negative emotions and attitude. Cancer was like having the "dark force" in my body. I never understood it until I experienced it. There are a lot of negative emotions and there is a lot of fear. But in order to heal, I kept reading that you needed to let go of that. Easier said than done. Laughter yoga became my tool to pull out of the negative emotions. I had to work at it. It required forcing myself to laugh even when I didn't feel like it. I would find that the laughter would pull me out of the negative state and I would feel hopeful and positive again.
The negative voices and emotions are far less frequent than they used to me. Sometimes I am even surprised at this new person manifesting as me! I am more positive and loving and my heart is open. I like myself a lot better than I used to.
I would not say I got well only because of laughter yoga. My own experience with healing was that it was hard work. It still is. I spend several hours a day doing yoga or qigong, meditation, breathing and yes, laughing!. I also completely changed my diet and I view food as medicine now. But the laughter yoga has been one of the best, most positive and transformative things that I have done.
And yes, the St Louis Laughter Club still meets every Sunday at 4PM. Of the original group that started the club with me, all of us remain cancer free. About 6-8 of the regular members are cancer survivors. Hard to say what it means yet.... I'm a nurse - I'm not prepared to make grandiose statements. I can only make an observation. I like the new laughing me much better! Indeed, laughter may be one of the best medicines!