Healing Laughter 2018-05-01T16:29:12-06:00

 Delores Bryan listens to a story read to her by volunteer Inez Stone while she undergoes infusion treatment.
Delores Bryan listens to a story read to her
by volunteer Inez Stone while she undergoes
infusion treatment.
Volunteer Inez Stone (right) pauses while reading to patient Kay Tatum.
Volunteer Inez Stone (right) pauses while reading
to patient Kay Tatum.

Inez Stone believes that the healing power of laughter works hand in hand with the healing power of medicine.

Walking through Infusion Clinic 1 with a warm smile and a book full of inspirational and funny stories, Stone, a volunteer at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), is determined to tickle as many funny bones as possible.

“Some say laughter is the best medicine, and I couldn’t agree more,” Stone said.

Her mission began when her sister, Sandy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stone thought it would be good to read funny stories during her treatment sessions in Searcy to help keep her spirits up.
“I found the book, “Help, I Can’t Stop Laughing!” and started to read to her as she received her treatment. We began to laugh so much that I thought we were disturbing the other patients.”

Stone asked her sister’s nurse if their laughter was disruptive and to her surprise the nurse said the complete opposite. The other patients were listening and laughing at the stories being told, and she encouraged Stone to continue reading. “That first day I read for seven hours, and we all laughed and talked the entire time,” said Stone.

After that first time, Stone knew she wanted to continue but needed to find a place closer to home. “My sister received treatment outside of Little Rock, and I knew I couldn’t commute that far every day. I contacted the volunteer office at the Cancer Institute to see if they had a reading program,” said Stone. “They didn’t, but encouraged me to start one, so here we are.”

The patients are very receptive to the program, Stone said. “Some of the men will actually tell me jokes back and the women like to talk about their families. I really get a chance to bond with the patients, and I am happy to listen.”

In addition to laughing, Stone’s visits with patients give them the opportunity to speak to her about their treatment and care in the clinics. “The patients tell me about the excellent care they receive here, and I like to pass those kind words on to the nurses and staff.”

“Inez measures the success of the program by the smiles left on patients’ faces,” said Janie Lowe, director of the Cancer Institute Department of Volunteer Services. “She picks up on the needs of each patient and knows when to read a funny story or when to just sit and visit.”

Stone is looking forward to expanding the reading program into other parts of the Cancer Institute. In the near future, the program will move to include Infusion Clinic 4. “Inez has recruited members of her Sunday school class as well as others to join in making sure the program is a continued success,” Lowe said.

“I think we need a program like this in every hospital and long-term care facility,” Stone said. “We are able to bring a little joy and happiness into the lives of the patients during the time we sit and read to them, and that is a wonderful feeling.”

For information on volunteer opportunities, call (501) 686-8286 or visit www.cancer.uams.edu/cancervolunteer.