It’s Funny: Lining the path of illness with humor by Sean J. Mahoney

Sean J Mahoney (shown here with Tig) is a writer in Santa Ana, CA. His poem, “ Dude, The Stage? ” appeared in the Fall 2014 Intima.

Sean J Mahoney (shown here with Tig) is a writer in Santa Ana, CA. His poem, “Dude, The Stage?” appeared in the Fall 2014 Intima.

It’s funny. I visited the Intima website to initiate a dialogue with an existing piece in the archives that, metaphorically, had been chatting (unbeknownst to me) somewhat telepathically with my poem "Dude, the Stage?”(Intima Fall 2014). Furthermore, the writer Keenan Whitesides ("The Choice," Field Notes, Spring 2014 Intima) had similar telepathy occurring concurrently. She too reacted to something in Aimee Burke Valeras’s “The Appearance of Choice” (Fiction,  Spring 2012 Intima) in writing her piece.

Valeras writes of her personal choice and Whitesides describes choice in terms of holistic health as it relates to one of her patients. And I am attempting to link these two somewhat disparate stories by using the inherent humor underlying both narratives and my own. MS is a relatively new venue for me and there are moments when it does feel as though I am the one and only attendee for this manic show, and that my dignity was frisked out of me by the ‘muscle’ watching the door.


It seems to me that Valeras and I, as patients, choose to line our respective paths with humor because, consciously or not, comedy is hard and the all too common and overly dramatic depiction of the patient is all too easy. Perhaps. Please understand I am speaking in broad generalities for, obviously, no two cases, no two people, are ever alike. But does it not seem reasonable that many of us ‘patients’ choose to approach the trials and travails of illness with mega-doses of twisted humor: I went to the body store and picked this 10,000 thread fiber count / made by hand new body off the back shelf because I liked the colors and my selection ended up having "Multiple Sclerosis / Cancer / ALS / Alzheimer’s / pick your poison" and I can’t return it because my parents lost the receipts years and years ago in some forest glen when they were making my younger brother.

When people can interject humor into what are unusually horrid circumstances like hospital stays and/or visits and the processions of nurses and machines and sometimes a doctor with a cadre of medical students “marching up and down the square”…er, the hospital floor…spirits are buoyed…and for an array of souls beyond just the afflicted. Circumstances don’t necessarily change nor do diagnoses. Being sick still sucks…like the prom. But maybe, sometimes, the looking glass reveals a happy medium between the extremes of life and death, a median where circumstances are life altering instead. And manageable. Humor is a fantastic substitute for Windex.

We went to the theater the other night and saw the stage version of Once. There is a lyric in the song ‘Falling Slowly’ that addresses the power of choice we all (most of us anyway) possess. It stuck with me well into the following day not because it’s such a profound universal truism, but because within it I believe we as individuals are given permission to cease warring with ourselves. Funny, eh?

Sean J Mahoney lives with his wife, her parents, two Uglydolls, and three dogs in Santa Ana, California. He works in geophysics. Sean was out-boozed by Franciscan monks in Ireland and swam with Whale Sharks in Mexico.  He believes that punk rock somehow miraculously survives, that Judas was a way better singer than Jesus, and that diatomaceous earth is a not well known enough gardening marvel. His work can be found in MiPoesias, Muddy River Review, Occupoetry, Poetry Quarterly, Wordgathering, and Pentimento, among others. Sean was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in April of 2012. His piece, “Dude, The Stage?” appeared in the Fall 2014 Intima.

© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine