Thank You for Caregiving: Laughter for the Soul

November 28, 2016

AnnMarie Otis was diagnosed with breast cancer and by her side she found her “sister”.

When you go through any illness like cancer there are friends that bring you casseroles and dinners, which are amazingly delicious. Some bring your kids to soccer and let your dogs out when you're at treatment --thank God for them. There are ones that come to your house to just sit and watch movies with you while you eat crappy food,and those ones are fabulous, too. You need all of these people and the caregiving they offer to get through a diagnosis like breast cancer. They all help in ways you find priceless.

For me, I had a caregiver who met me in the parking lot after I was just told “you have cancer.” She met me to read the pathology report because she’s a cancer researcher and she could really explain  the report to me in a way I understood. She changed her schedule to go to every appointment with you and my husband. When my husband and I left a doctor visit arguing about what we both “heard” she was there to smack our heads together and explain what really was said. During each appointment she not only listened but asked the right questions, the ones you have no clue to ask because you are in a fog from being told you have cancer. She’s the person that, even though she has a job, she sits through every surgery totally 28 hours to make sure you are getting the right nurses, doctors and IVs.

MC wouldn’t just do all that; she’d provide all of this support while also making me laugh. She took the scariest of situations and reminded me that I needed to laugh. After I was injected with radioactive dye, which scared me, I found myself laughing. After the injection, she asked the doctors if I could ride on the hood of her car because she was worried I would make her magnetic;we both started laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. I forgot how scared I was. I needed to laugh because if I started to cry I do not think I would have stopped.

When I uncovered my chest for the first time after the mastectomy and was on the verge of losing it, she pulled me back. MC reminded me that maybe I could be the Bride of Frankenstein? Laughter again. Laughter when I needed to be focused because I needed to think about healing, not losing it.

Now this is not to say we did not cry, because we did. But we laughed more. MC did not bring me a meal or take my kids to soccer (or maybe she did I cannot remember). She did, however, save me. She took care of my soul. Something that needed nurturing when the rest of me was breaking down. Without her caring for me I am unsure I would have made it. She knew when to let me cry, she also told me to stop that it was enough and I needed to wipe the tears away. When I was yelling she let me scream then told me to shut the hell up and calm down. And when I needed to laugh she was right there to crack a joke, at my expense of course. But she was also willing to be the brunt of my jokes too. She took them and laughed with me. Let it be noted she also smacked me a few times too (and choked me when I did not listen to any of the above).

We are not blood related. We do not share parents or cousins. But that whole “blood is thicker than water” stuff has never seen us together. We were brought together by a force stronger than anything I have ever known.  When I was dealing cancer she took care of the part of me that no one else would have known how to. When tragedy struck her family I was the only one that could take care of her. Sometimes caregiving is not about a meal, a ride or dropping off medicine. Sometimes caregiving is about making sure that person has laughter, that their soul is healing and that you can carry them like they would carry you. 

AnnMarie Otis, is the mom of four boys and has been married to her husband Tom for almost 20 unperfectly perfect years. Diagnosed with stage I breast cancer in 2011, after 7 surgeries and radiation she's learning to create a new normal. Follow her blog and updates at and

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