Who we are
Cancer Hates Laughter grants free comedy show tickets to those experiencing cancer.
Hi! My name is Gemma. I’m the Founder of Cancer Hates Laughter, Inc. and would love to share how CHL came to exist.
In January of 2014, I bought tickets for two friends and me to see Jim Gaffigan’s comedy show happening on March 13th at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado. Exactly one month later I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – Breast Cancer. I had recently turned 38, lived alone and was immensely afraid. Five weeks later I was admitted for a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction and was surrounded by friends, family and enough flowers to keep FTD in business.
The Jim Gaffigan show was eight days later. While my friends suggested we sell our tickets, there was very little that could stand in my way of getting to that show. We made a plan consisting of my first post-surgery shower, a safe and slow route to the theatre and my friends protected me like paid security guards ensuring no one bumped into my fresh incisions. We made it to our seats and proceeded to giggle the night away.
I’d be lying if I said I remember any part of Mr. Gaffigan’s set that evening – the pain meds and exhaustion won out. What I can immediately recall is how great it felt to put my diagnosis aside for a night, leave my worry at home and reconnect with my laugh. The gift of sharing space with humor instead of fear is one I will always treasure. That was a great evening.
During my first few weeks post-diagnosis, a close friend and warrior told me that “Cancer hates laughter.” I realized how these three words succinctly captured so much of what my biological dad, Bob, and I believe – choose happiness, seek out and embrace joyous moments while you can, live and love life, and laugh at every turn. He loved this saying. In 2016, when his cancer made its 8th and final recurrence, he was breathing out of a tracheotomy, was barely able to swallow and had no voice he would write this in his notebook:
I cherish the gift of being with my dad at the end of his life. Getting to choose his headstone inscription felt like one of the last great ways I would get to honor him. It felt immensely important, and I eventually settled on this:
Gentle Warrior was the suggestion of my closest friend and it perfectly captured, to me, who he was. Bob’s strength, determination, grit, love, and commitment come to mind every time I see the word warrior. While there are many ways in which someone who has experienced cancer may identify – patient, fighter, survivor, thriver or they may not identify with cancer at all – warrior is how I would describe my dad and myself. It is the chosen descriptor of the community we serve at CHL yet however you relate please know you are welcome here.
There are many different tools to help you cope with a cancer diagnosis and laughter is just one. In honor of my biological father, Bob Wilkinson we have built Cancer Hates Laughter, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comedic relief to the cancer warrior community.
Through his death and my cancer recurrence, I see now, more than ever, the importance of finding joy in surprising places and
EMBRACING ANY MOMENT WHERE I CAN LAUGH MY ASS OFF.
At Cancer Hates Laughter we support other local non-profits who share our mission of spreading joy. We are committed to donating a percentage of monetary donations received (excluding profits from products sold) to fellow Denver-based 501c3 organizations. Donations will be made on a quarterly basis beginning April 2019.