Friday, August 27, 2010

A Laugh a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

Having chronic hepatitis C viral infection (HCV) is not funny, but living with it can provide endless amusement. I laugh the most about HCV when I attend support groups with others who are learning to live and laugh with this disease. I have seen people keep their humor even in the last stages of liver failure. People who die with a smile on their face seem to do so with dignity and grace. This was eloquently stated when Anne Lamott declared, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

Norman Cousins referred to laughter as “inner jogging.” Before his death in 1990, he used humor to cope with two severe medical conditions. Cousins translated his personal experience into a medical art. He worked in a hospital and charged the staff with a daily task – learn a new joke and tell it to the patients and staff. He replaced apples with a joke a day to keep the doctor away.

Perhaps a laugh a day does not keep the doctor away, but it sure makes life more bearable. Humor can help us talk about the unspeakable. Peter Ustinov mused, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

For further reading or laughs:
Patch Adams
Cousins, Norman Anatomy of an Illness
Lamott, Anne Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Laughter Heals Foundation

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hep Words

I love words and knowing where they come from. In medicine, everything associated with the liver is hepatic, which comes from the Greek word for liver, hepar. Liver cells are called hepatocytes. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. A hepatologist is a liver disease specialist. Hepatic encephalopathy means a kind of brain disorder caused by the liver disease.

This week I was looking through a bird book and found a bird called a hepatic tanager. It got the name because the male is liver-colored. In the picture it was the color of a liver. I can just imagine a bevy of ornithologists hanging around, saying, “Let’s call it a rusty tanager. Better yet, a livered tanager. By jove, how about a hepatic tanager!” 

You know what is really funny? The bird is more likely a type of a cardinal than a tanager. If they had called it a hepatic cardinal, it’s name would have been two colors.

Although hepatic may refer to color, it's unlikely that we will see it on a nail polish or lipstick.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Someone told me that the words humor and healing both come from the same Greek roots. I looked this up and found nothing to support this, as much as I’d like to believe it. Healing is Greek. The word humor means fluid in Latin. In ancient times it was believed that the human contained four substances, called humors. These influence our state our mind, health and personality. The humors were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.

Depression and gloominess was from too much black bile, thus the word melancholy (melan means black and chol had to do with bile and the gall bladder). Heck if I had too much black bile I’d be melancholic!

So, when I am being funny, that must mean that I am fluid and balanced. Hope I get there soon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jaundiced Poetry

Liver is red,
Bile is yellow,
Glucose is sweet,
Especially in Jell-O.

What can I say, it’s been a slow week in the liver humor department. In fact, my jokes are rather weak and jaundiced…