It is doubtful that anyone who has battled cancer and undergone weeks of chemotherapy would describe the experience as one that leaves you feeling upbeat and ready to tell a good joke. The mental and physical stresses on a person can be overwhelming, and for most people it takes every ounce of strength just to accomplish the basics like getting out of bed and eating. So when you hear the story of someone like Beth Kaufman, a New Jersey mother and attorney diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer who chose to approach her situation with laughter and comedy instead of anger and depression, you can’t help but marvel and be inspired by her remarkable attitude.
Although she didn’t go into the experience feeling as positive, Beth slowly came to the realization that the very thing keeping her strong and helping her get through it was the same thing she enjoyed doing all her life: making people laugh. Beth now credits comedy and her ability to laugh with her ability to beat cancer, telling others that “If you don’t laugh and make the situation lighter, you’re not going to get through it.” Beth’s attitude during her battle has served as an inspiration to her daughter Danie. “I knew she was strong, but I didn’t know how strong. My mom wrote a lot of jokes during chemo,” says Danie. “Doing that was really good for her.”
Having won her battle and her cancer now officially in remission since May 2011, Beth has started a new chapter in her life by pursuing her dream of stand-up comedy, performing in clubs throughout New Jersey, in Philadelphia, and as far away as Woodbridge, Virginia. Beth has even given up her career as a sports attorney to pursue stand-up comedy full-time. “The pay isn’t as good but I’m having the time of my life!” she says.
Beth is hoping her battle with cancer and her experiences with hecklers while performing her standup act can be used to help others, so she’s bringing some of her comedy to local schools to help students overcome bullying and the insecurity that usually accompanies it. Heckling is a lot like bullying, says Beth, and as bullying becomes more widespread among school children it’s important to help these young victims cope with this tragic and stressful situation. Giving them the ability to tell a joke and use comedy to make people laugh can give kids the self-confidence they need, while at the same time empowering them to stand up to bullies.
So what can the rest of us learn from this inspiring story? First, that laughter and a positive attitude can help anyone get through mentally and physically stressful situations. Like Beth often says: “Laughter helps you handle life!” And, second, third and so on – get started today on living the life of your dreams. Thank you Beth for poignant reminder of living life to its fullest.