By ROSA MERCADO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Cancer isn't something to laugh about. But for Jane Hill, finding the humor in her own experience with breast cancer helped her overcome it.
Hill can even laugh at losing a breast to cancer. She explained that her daughter Kelly decided to help by telling jokes of her own.
"One day she came home and said, 'Mom, I've got a joke that is so funny, it will make your breast fall off.' She looked at me for a minute, then said, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I see you've already heard it.'" Hill said she laughed so hard she realized it was helping her heal.
Her work began in 1990 when she started her own consulting business. Hill decided to take a standup comedy course to help her with her sales presentation skills. The course required her to write five minutes of material and perform it at a local comedy club.
"I enjoyed it so much," said Hill, an Orange County, Calif., resident. "It was a gift that came into my life at the right time, because six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer."
In the next few months, Hill underwent four surgeries. Finding the humor in everyday life helped her deal with the fear and anxiety she was feeling.
"The humor helped give me power over the cancer rather than cancer taking power over me."
Between her third and fourth surgeries, Hill started performing for other cancer patients. She said she wanted to show them that a cancer diagnosis does not automatically mean death, and that you still can laugh in the face of something like this.
"It truly did help me in my healing process, and it helps other people in their healing process," said Hill.
"Healing doesn't mean cured -- I know a lot of women that aren't going to be cured of cancer -- but they are healed. They're just accepting that, feeling good at the place where they're at and making the best of every day."
Catch it early
Hill explained that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. The survival rate is 96 percent when it is caught early, she said.
"I know some women are fearful of even getting things checked out," said Hill. "They think that maybe if they ignore it, it will go away -- you shouldn't do that."
Hill discovered she had cancer when she found a lump on her breast and went in for a mammogram. While that lump turned out to be noncancerous, they found cancer in another part of her breast that wasn't even palpable yet.
"It was early enough that you couldn't even feel it," she said.
Hill's motto, "Keep Laughing to Keep Healthy," reflects her emphasis on the real clinical and physiological benefits of laughter. "It reduces tension, it can increase the number of T cells, boosts oxygen levels to the brain, enhances blood circulation and increases your tolerance for discomfort," explained Hill.
Hill added that despite the things in life that are beyond our control, the one thing we can control is our attitude.
"If we can learn to change our attitude and our perceptions, we can change our health."
XHill was in the Valley for last week's Pink Ribbon Tea, sponsored by the sustaining members of the Junior League of Youngstown for breast cancer survivors.