The Best Medicine

Even if we hurt—maybe especially if we hurt, says Elaine Smookler—it helps to laugh. 

Actor, comedian, playwright, and mindfulness teacher Elaine Smookler decided to face her diagnosis of uterine cancer the way she faces everything in life: with a sense of humor. Photographs by Helen Tansey

“Do you know why you’re here?” the efficient orderly asked, looking down at his chart.

“Breast lift and tummy tuck,“ I said without a pause. He stopped writing and searched nervously through papers on his clipboard. “I’m just kidding,” I said. “I’m here for cancer surgery.” He looked surprised, then laughed and said there usually wasn’t a lot of joking around in pre-op. Strange, I thought. I guess not everyone thinks cancer is funny.

Three months before that, I was sitting on my porch pondering my mortality (in the way you can when it’s a beautiful day and nothing much else is going on) when the phone rang. I reluctantly stubbed out my cigarette and thought: I really need to quit. I should know better. I do know better. I will know better. As I answered the phone and lit up another cigarette, I thought, “This is good. The faster I smoke this pack, the sooner I’ll be done with this whole disgusting business.”

It was my doctor’s receptionist asking how soon I could come in to discuss my test results. I told her I was busy and it would be awhile, unless it was important. She hesitated. “The doctor…

Read More


Burnout: Heard of It? 

While burnout is never solely your responsibility to fix, mindfulness can help us navigate the individual and systemic solutions. Read More 

  • Mindful Staff
  • November 15, 2023


Get practices, tips, and special offers delivered straight to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
About the author

Elaine Smookler

Elaine Smookler has been a mindful practitioner for over 20 years and is on the faculty at The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and teaches mindfulness to corporate clients through eMindful. She's also a comedic writer and performer and is the singing host of Mindful Martinis, a cabaret/mindfulness class mash up.