June 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Editor’s note: When Dr. Neugut emailed that he’d be writing a column for the Purim section, Bracha Schwartz, our special section editor, said it was okay, as long as “it doesn’t metastasize and take over the whole paper.”

I recently had a call from my long-time friend and neighbor Marty who said he liked my column on cancer but complained that I don’t have enough jokes in it. This made me feel bad and that I wasn’t serving my readers properly. Many years ago, I wrote a column for a cancer newsletter that was devoted to humor and called “Neugut’s Nuggets.” I am a great believer that humor can help even in the worst of circumstances. Joseph Telushkin’s “Jewish Humor” is loaded with doctor jokes, Reader’s Digest tells us that laughter is the best medicine, and do I even have to mention Rodney?

A few weeks ago, a 73-year-old patient came to see me and after we discussed how little time he had left, he said, “I hope you can keep me going until my daughter’s wedding.” I said, “When is the wedding?” He replied, “I still have to find her a shidduch.”

The oncologist went in to see the patient and said, “I am sorry, but I have bad news and worse news.” The patient looked nervous and said, “What is the bad news?” “You have only 24 hours to live.” “What could be worse than that?” “I forgot to come by yesterday.”

A man isn’t feeling well, so he goes to see his doctor. The doctor examines him, and then asks to speak with his wife. The doctor tells his wife that her husband has cancer. The wife asks, “Can he be cured?” The doctor replies, “There is a small chance we can cure him with chemotherapy, but you will need to take care of him every day for the next year—cooking all the meals, cleaning up the vomit, changing the bed pan, driving him to the hospital for daily treatments, and so on.” When the wife comes out to the waiting room, the husband asks her what the doctor said. The wife answers, “He said that you’re going to die.”

Hospital regulations require a wheelchair for patients being discharged. A student nurse walked into a hospital room to find an elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet. He insisted that he didn’t need any help to leave the hospital. After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let the student wheel him to the elevator. On the way down in the elevator, the student nurse asked him if his wife was meeting him. “I don’t know,” he said. “She’s still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown.”

An oncologist decides to recommend exercise to a cancer survivor who is doing well. He instructs the patient to run five miles a day for 14 days. After the two weeks pass, the oncologist gets a phone call from the patient. “I am 70 miles away now—how do I get back?”

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks, “Why the long face?” The horse said, “Well, it has been a really bad day. Around 10 years ago, I married a pony, the absolute love of my life. She just passed away at the hospital from throat cancer. I’m on my way back home and I just came in for a few drinks to ease the pain.” The bartender felt horrible about the stupid joke he said earlier and apologized profusely. The horse just shook his head and said, “Don’t worry about it. In all honesty, we should have caught the cancer much earlier. She was always a little horse.”

One day, a man walked into an oncologist’s office and told the receptionist he had shingles. She took down his name, address, medical insurance number, and told him to have a seat. A few minutes later, a nurse’s aide came out. She called his name, and asked him what he had while leading him to the examination room. He responded by saying, “Shingles,” and she told him to wait in the exam room. Ten minutes later, a nurse came in and asked what he had. “Shingles,” he responded. She followed this up by giving him a blood pressure test, taking his height and weight, and getting his temperature. Before exiting the room, she told him to take off all of his clothes, put on a robe, and wait for the doctor. Twenty minutes later, the doctor entered and asked him what he had. “Shingles,” the man replied. “Where?” asked the doctor. “Outside in the truck,” the man responded, “Where do you want them?”


Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD, is a medical oncologist and cancer epidemiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/New York Presbyterian and Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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