An Unexpected Sound in the Cancer Clinic
March 1, 2016
· By Jennifer Turcotte
You might hear it in the waiting room between the receptionist and a patient checking in. You may hear it in the lab between a medical assistant and a patient about to get her blood drawn. You may hear this sound seeping out from under the exam room door; the sound may erupt between the nurse practitioner and a patient. The sound has been heard prior to a bone marrow aspiration procedure taking place. And you can certainly hear it in the infusion room.
In fact, it is such an unexpected sound that often new patients and families are surprised to hear it inside the cancer clinic and comment on it. The sound is laughter. For those not familiar with our clinics, it might be surprising to hear that there is laughter present in the midst of treating patients with cancer. This is largely due to the fact that we are taking care of wonderful people who just happen to have cancer.
You might be surprised to learn that the giggles of laughter are frequently instigated by the patient. “Why was the young strawberry crying?” quipped one of my patients in the infusion room, as I was hooking him up to an IV to start his chemotherapy. I caved, “Why?” “Because her parents were in a jam.” I laughed – I couldn’t help myself – and he smiled and laughed at making me laugh. I have the best patients in the world. I say that all the time, but it is the absolute truth. In the midst of their cancer journey, our lives intersect, bonds are formed and relationships are made.
Laughter is known to reduce stress and tension. Laughter can improve quality of life. It may strengthen social bonds and relationships. It produces a general sense of well-being.
Some studies state that laughter:
- Releases endorphins (happy chemicals found in your body)
- Temporarily relieves pain
- Improves blood pressure
- Improves oxygen intake
- Decreases stress hormones
- Increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies
Laughter in the clinic is therapeutic. We do not force it to happen. It often starts with a smile and greeting. Laughter comes from the relationships we form with our patients. It may come from shared experiences in the clinic. Laughter is a wonderful gift to share with someone who has a cancer diagnosis. It is part of our humanity to laugh and bond with one another. When you come to visit us at New England Cancer Specialists, don’t be alarmed if you hear this unexpected sound when you walk through the door.
– Jennifer Turcotte is an RN, BSN, OCN in our Kennebunk office