Ros Ben-Moshe: When I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 42, I was devastated and wanted to cry. But being a laughter therapist I knew somehow laughter would be an integral part of my healing and recovery. Believe me, it was not easy for me laugh at my medical condition but Laughter Yoga had taught me that there was always a ray of hope even in the darkest of times.
As a seasoned laughter-yogi, I thought laughter would come naturally to me, but it was not so. The first laughter session I attended after my diagnosis seemed like a force on and my energy level was really low. I felt trapped and helpless. I could hardly gather the courage to conduct a laughter session when in a few days I was scheduled for major surgery – a full bowel resection together with a temporary ileostomy? All I wanted was to hide from everyone and cry.
But it was on my 42nd birthday that my life changed forever. I took a decision to laugh away my fear and anxiety. I outlined the social, emotional and physical health benefits of laughter and even managed to lead participants in a laughter session comprising laughter exercises, deep breathing and clapping. I noted how in no time my laughter became real, as did theirs. I realized the more we choose to smile and laugh, we actually rewire the brain to a complete and constant state of calm, joy and awareness.
After the session I asked people to share how they felt and was delighted to hear that, like me, they felt happier, lighter, brighter and less anxious and stressed. I felt enlivened as it was for the first time since the diagnosis I felt an excitement for life, for really living. I now felt significantly more prepared for the big surgery.
A few days later, when I went to the hospital, I made a promise to take charge of my healing. Even though circumstances were less than perfect, I believed laughter and a positive mental attitude would help me through my surgery. Even during recovery I kept myself focused on the positive energy and kept laughing because optimal healing takes place when there is less stress in the body and mind. Laughter Yoga does just that as it changes your whole perspective and promotes complete wellness.
On most days, even if it was the last thing I felt like doing, I still practiced my daily laughter. I knew doing so would change my biochemistry. With full attention to my smile, I breathed it in and then as I exhaled, shared it around my body, until it was as if every cell, every tissue, every muscle, every fibre of my body was smiling back at me. It was such a beautiful thing to do, to embody a smile and the magical feelings it brings: love, inner peace and pure joy.
It also helped re-frame some of the more painful moments, infusing them with little joy, which I knew would help change the way my mind remembered particular events. I even changed how I referred to my bowel reversal, choosing instead to call it a bowel re- connection, as instinctively this felt so much more positive. Basically, I spent time focusing on everything positive and joyful, which helped me get past my difficult times.
My journey through cancer reaffirmed the principles that previously I had merely preached. I actually put them all into practice and reaped the benefits of love and joy and happiness. Healing through laughter set me on a path of everlasting positivity, changed my perception towards life and taught me how to accept and deal with adversity.