Sep 29, 2009

Laughing in the face of hardship

by Rachel Barker

Gambling is a cause of countless problems. It has forged addiction, broken banks and destroyed families. But for one lucky woman from New York, gambling was the perfect distraction.

Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Nicole Rowe decided to travel to Atlantic City and enter a women’s poker tournament for charity. Urged by her friends, she used the trip as an escape from her grim situation.

“The whole reason was to keep my mind off of reality, which is cancer,” Rowe told AOL News.

Using distractions to deal with pain is no new revelation.

“Surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century,” researchers at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) said.

Studies have revealed episodes of laughter help to reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones and boost the immune system, according to the CTCA.

Many cancer treatment centers have incorporated various diversion methods of therapy. The CTCA have taken the axiom “Laughter is the best medicine” to a new and practical level. They argue that laughter has many proven medicinal purposes.

Many people underestimate the importance of a good laugh. There is a connection between why we enjoy laughing and the benefits to our overall health. Laughing helps to divert our attention from the negative aspects of our lives and
directs it at something positive.

The Make a Wish Foundation has been implementing the idea of using diversions to give hope to children dealing with life-threatening illnesses, according to the mission statement. Countless individuals have been blessed by this organization and many have been fortunate enough to survive their illnesses.

Every minute of a cancer patient’s day is filled with thoughts of cancer, of pain and of death. Sometimes the best thing to do is take a break and not think about cancer, if even just for a

Rowe’s trip to Atlantic City proved more impactful than as a simple distraction. She used the opportunity to talk to the other women at the tournament about her disease and the importance of receiving baseline sonogram exams in addition to traditional mammograms, according to AOL News.

Although Rowe only won second in the tournament, the winner donated the entire winnings to three charities, including the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation, in Rowe’s honor.

As students, we have been told that focusing is the key to completing the task at hand. But when life gets tough, perhaps it is better to find our own distractions and laugh.

Contact Rachel Barker at

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