Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration
Norman Cousins


Finally, I believe that humor is essential to healing. Norman Cousins, author of the best-seller Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, attributed his healing from the crippling disease ankylosing spondylitis to “humor therapy.” He watched Marx Brothers movies and others that made him laugh, and he found that if he laughed for ten minutes, he was able to get two hours of pain-free, uninterrupted sleep.

I was often amazed that if you get a group of recovering cancer patients together, sooner or later they start telling stories and eventually get around to laughing. Some of us who stayed together while we went through treatment enjoyed getting together and laughing at ourselves. I can remember one hilarious session when we tried on all kinds of wigs and hats that we were or had been using during chemotherapy.

Peter made it his job to keep me from becoming too serious, which is one of my traits. He could often catch me off guard and make me laugh at myself or the situation that I was in. One day, we even rented a bunch of funny movies and sat down to watch them in order to get the endorphins going! Although not all of them were funny to us, and some actually made us cry, it all helped.

Laughter truly is great medicine and can actually ease pain, both emotional and physical.


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy