Take two punchlines and call me in the morning

dr dolittleEddie Murphy is keeping my sister alive.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. Eddie Murphy doesn’t know my sister. While he went by the name Dr. Dolittle for a brief moment, the movie role didn’t come with a medical degree. Murphy’s expertise is in punchlines, not PET scans.

Still, the edgy comedian can write a very powerful prescription.

Just two months ago, Nancy Dotson seemed to bottom out. It was difficult for her to get out of bed. Her medical chart looked like a stock portfolio during the Great Depression. Her white blood cell count was so low, her body couldn’t handle a single dose of chemotherapy. Her cancer markers were punching the dark, gloomy clouds.

“Has anyone had an honest conversation with you about the future?”

This came from the doctor who dispenses her chemotherapy. He went on to describe how my sister’s organs were about to retire, how she would soon enjoy a tube running down her throat as she waited out her final days in a hospital bed.

Nancy Dotson was having none of that.

“Well, I’m a positive thinker,” she retorted. “And it might do you some good to try a positive attitude.”

You tell him, Nancy.

You’ve probably heard the term, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” which is the title of a book written before my birth. I’ve never read it, but the theory is right up my alley. Positive, uplifting thought can bring powerful results.

I’m reading about Dr. Wendy Harpham, the author of several books including “Happiness in a Storm.” Nearly three decades ago, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. During her treatment, she developed a “happiness” regimen that included surrounding herself with encouraging people, keeping a gratitude journal, and watching funny movies.

She’s been in remission for twelve years.

Funny movies. I wonder if she watched any Eddie Murphy.

Nancy and I share an offbeat sense of humor that we no doubt inherited from our father. On her birthday, I will send her a Happy Bar Mitzvah card, or something equally irrelevant. A phone conversation between the two of us will inevitably digress into a recital of our favorite movie lines. Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, and Coming to America come to life. Sometimes, it’s as if Eddie Murphy is on a party line with us. We do it just to hear each other laugh.

Summoning our inner-Murphy won’t vanquish her cancer. But I am convinced, and others are as well, that a lively, happy spirit emboldens the body. The stronger you are, mind, body, and spirit, the better you are able to battle any malady.

Imagine going into conflict with the most modern weapons that exist, but a dour attitude that suggests there is no hope. Great athletes like Michael Jordan win not only because they are talented. They exude confidence. Look at pictures of Jordan on the basketball court. He’s smiling. He’s confident. If anyone even suggests he’s not going to enjoy victory, he laughs.

I have prayed for Nancy more times than Eddie Murphy has collected a paycheck. My family, friends, and fellow church members have joined me in this endeavor. I pray that God will keep Nancy positive, that He will bring her comfort and hope during the times when the prognosis seems grim. She knows that she has a very large community rooting for her, one led by God. It has helped keep her spirits afloat.

By the way, her white blood cell count? Up. Cancer markers? Down.

Thank you, Dr. Dolittle.

The cancer is still there. Nancy is still enduring chemotherapy and all of the lovely side effects. The medicine is working in a body empowered by confidence, prayer, and joy.

Have you ever heard Eddie Murphy’s laugh? It sounds like a donkey caught in a thorn bush. You laugh at his laugh.

There’s no way cancer can survive that onslaught.

I’m absolutely positive of that.



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