Green bananas
Buying green bananas came to have a special meaning for Dad.

Yesterday, I heard on the radio that laughing for a few minutes a day can influence your bio-chemistry, circulation, and overall wellness. You don’t even have to find something funny to laugh at. Just laugh!

If you saw my last article, you’d know my family’s history of storytelling — especially humorous, encouraging stories. My dad had often told me the story of a local retired Italian man who had been diagnosed with cancer. Likewise, a local business professional received the same news. Both were told their case was terminal. The businessman went home where he organized his finances and waited for the end of his life. The retired Italian man also went home, where he went to work in his garden, as he had always enjoyed doing every day. Sadly, the businessman lived for only a 2–3 months. The retiree? He gardened for years! All that to say outlook can affect outcome.

I didn’t expect that the story one day would hit so close to home. When I was in my 20s, Dad found a lump growing in his neck.

An oncologist confirmed his suspicion: It’s cancer. Dad asked, “How much time do I have left?” The oncologist replied, “It’s hard to say.” Dad persisted, “Well, tell me, should I buy green bananas or yellow bananas?”

The doctor didn’t seem to get the joke. Surprisingly, Dad claimed his biggest concern at that moment was that he wasn’t funny anymore. The cancer didn’t worry him. He believed he would beat it.

When I took Dad to his first chemotherapy appointment, a nurse brought a clipboard into the room and asked a few questions, ending with, “What’s your age.” Dad answered, “I’m 48.” She recorded his response. “Wait a minute,” Dad said, “make that 49.” She nodded, scratched the number and wrote again. As she started to exit, Dad called, “Wait! I’m 50 … no, 51 … and I’m not nervous.”

The nurse left, concealing any reaction to Dad’s self-effacing humor. I told him, “If I were your nurse, I would’ve said, ‘Of course you’re nervous, Mr. Duquette. You’ve aged three years since you’ve been here.’”

Each treatment affected Dad mostly in his hands. His regular physical outlet and emotional therapy had been playing pool. Immediately after treatment, however, his fingers locked when he tried to form them into a bridge to guide the cue. He was grateful each time that side effect wore off.

Another thing that helped Dad to be happy was prayer. He had a list of people he was praying for, and Dad asked everyone to pray for him. His supporters included a priest, a minister, and a rabbi. I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not — although Dad did quip that God must be wondering who is this guy getting all the prayers from Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.

The following year, Dad returned to the oncologist, who pronounced that the cancer was in remission.

As Dad was exiting the oncologist’s doorway, he put his head back in the room and asked, “How many people has this worked on?”

“You’re the first.”

My dad then understood why his doctor never laughed.

Dad lived another 30 years afterward. He continued to pray and play pool. He regularly did his own groceries, carefully choosing healthy foods. And joyfully buying bananas. Green ones.