“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” – Mark Twain
When I was in the seventh grade, five people from my science class formed an unofficial “Cancer Mom Club.” It was not a support group for the children of women who were Cancers but an alliance between five children whose moms had suffered and survived cancer. It was an unconventional way to make friends. While most people would find what we did unsympathetic or callous, I think it was a healthy way for me to cope. Growing up, I never met anyone who had gone through what I had gone through so it was good to meet people like me. In a way, it was my way of living with the aftermath of my Mom’s sickness.
My mom was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was two years old. Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the body’s immune system. While Mom was battling her sickness, I lived with my grandparents. I wasn’t allowed to see her when she was in surgery or during chemo because of how young I was. As is often seen in children, I was not aware of what was going on with my Mom and never processed the entire experience. As a family, we tend to not dwell on the subject much. The two years that my Mom was sick are not mentioned in the house, so I turned to the Cancer Mom Club to heal and process my emotions, even if I was not aware of what I was doing. Sometimes it could mean joking around about dark subjects.
This is not unusual in teenagers, especially for Gen Z. We like to joke about trauma and the bad things that happen in our lives.This can be seen in the form of making jokes about school shootings or racial injustice or abuse. There’s been a lot of conflict over Gen Z’s use of humor as a coping mechanism after experiencing traumatic events. Historically, humor has always been utilized to cope with traumatic events. But technologies on the internet have broadened the impact range and the affected audience of tragic events. This means that more people get affected by dark humor and can be more sensitive to it.
As a generation, there’s an unspoken understanding that dark humor should never affect other people. Talking about your own experiences and trauma is acceptable, but it should never go as far as making fun of someone else’s trauma. I agree; I never joked about the sickness itself because I was not in the position to do so. According to Meghan Mobbs of Psychology Today, dark humor “treats threatening or disturbing subjects…with levity or amusement.”. Dark humor can be subjective and should never affect other people, only yourself and your experiences. That is why the topic of humor and trauma is so controversial. People don’t like hearing about tragedies, even if the speaker has first hand experience. To me, dark humor helps make a tragedy less tragic.
The Cancer Mom Club disbanded at the ending of our school year. Since most of us were not friends outside of the classroom, we never spoke after that. Two of my friends, who were also a part of the club, also testified about how the club helped them heal. Their mom also suffered from cancer when they were young. Similar to me, the topic is taboo in their homes so an eccentric group of middle schoolers with a love for dark humor and a common tragedy seemed to be the only space they felt comfortable sharing their stories in. My mom’s cancer is not a huge part of my life, my family and I try to move on from the ordeal rather than be stuck in the past. Despite that, I appreciated the space and the opportunity the Cancer Mom Club gave me, to heal and to grow.
My mom started getting better after months and months of surgery and chemo. She never forgets her sickness and reminds me everyday about how important it is to embrace life and laugh a little. If we can joke about something, it becomes less threatening in our mind. A few weeks after Mom had recovered, she went to get her hair cut. It was short and choppy after chemo, so it prompted the lady cutting her hair to ask which incompetant hairdresser had cut her hair so badly. My mom laughed, “It was God!”