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Learning to laugh

After becoming severely ill as a college student, I was inspired by an LDS general conference talk to "learn to laugh."

In October 2008, I was a junior at Brigham Young University in Provo. Shortly after school began, I had become severely ill. After several tests and doctors' appointments, I was referred to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. Tthere I was diagnosed with Cowden syndrome, a rare genetic disorder involving an increased risk of certain types of cancer. I also learned I had severe gluten intolerance.

Although I stayed at BYU after my diagnoses, I followed a strict regimen of doctors' appointments. Doctors found abnormalities throughout my body and I was tested for cancer on a regular basis. I also had a strange new diet, vastly different from the one I was used to. I was often overcome with stress and sadness.

I listened to general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on my laptop in my apartment. I remember listening to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s talk “Come What May, and Love It” and laughing as he recalled his daughter's embarrassing blind-date story. I was struck by his advice to learn to laugh and promised myself I would do just that as I finished my semester and completed my medical tests and appointments.

I remember that Thanksgiving, I made a batch of gluten-free rolls that I swapped with the normal rolls my family was going to eat. I laughed when family members started to eat the rolls and quickly spat them out.

I remember after having a laparoscopy the nurse told me that while I was waking up I tried to escape from the room and had to be escorted back to bed.

I remember when I was being screened for several brain cancers I was told that my head was so big that only 2 percent of the population had the same size.

I remember being in the hospital in a paper gown and having to make a mad dash for my clothes in front of a cute male nurse. Of course, I had forgotten I was attached to an IV and tripped over the cords.

Although these were small moments, I will never forget them because they reminded me joy can be found in the direst moments. Five years later, I am still being screened for various cancers. Before I go to each doctor’s appointment, I say a fervent prayer. I do not ask the Lord to spare me from a cancer diagnosis. I ask the Lord to give me a moment where I can learn to laugh.

Shelby Scoffield has a bachelor's in English from Brigham Young University and a master's in rhetoric and composition from Stanislaus State University. She is currently working on her teaching credentials so she can teach high school English.