The Healing Power of Humor

by University Relations

There’s nothing funny about cancer. It wasn’t funny when a doctor told Jerry Duprez ’75, Ph.D., that a routine CT scan revealed a 17-centimeter tumor in his abdomen. It wasn’t funny when he heard he had stage III testicular cancer and less than a 15 percent chance of survival. Yet, somehow this clinical psychologist, who bravely underwent chemotherapy and two operations in six months, miraculously beat the odds and remains cancer-free five years later. The key to his fight and recovery: humor.

Throughout his treatment, humor kept popping up in unexpected ways, and Duprez found himself laughing in the midst of bleak circumstances. He recorded the lighter moments of his heavy season, envisioning a comedy sketch, but penned a book instead. Accustomed to hard work and unable to return to his private practice at the time, he produced the rough draft in one week. The end product, A Sack Half Full (Tate Publishing, 2012), offers a humorous memoir chronicling Duprez’s struggle with testicular cancer. He frankly describes the humbling nature of the disease, balancing extreme honesty and pain with comic relief. It took first place in the autobiography/biography category of the 2014 Christian Writers’ Awards presented by Xulon Press—an honor that affirms Duprez’s talent and sincerity in addressing a difficult topic.

“Parts are raw—it’s testicular cancer,” said Duprez of his book.“To be able to laugh in the midst of that, you hold on to those moments.” He acknowledges it is not for everyone. Those offended by edgy jokes or squeamish about personal details may want to leave it on the shelf. But for those interested, Duprez hopes his humor breaks the ice and normalizes testicular cancer as a topic of conversation, increases awareness, and ultimately, removes the stigma of shame attached to the diagnosis.

Jokes aside, Duprez pulls from his own experience of getting his affairs in order to prompt readers to prepare their legacy. While he felt peace about his probable impending death, he worried about the well-being of his wife and five children. This inspired a workbook that walks readers through end-of-life issues. He urges readers to pursue their legacy and approach it with intention, supporting his call to action with Proverbs 13:22: “A good person leaves an inheritance for his children’s children” (NAS).

Duprez’s advice comes not only from his faith, but also from his years of education and experience. In addition to his 30-year psychology practice, he holds bachelor’s degrees in physical education and psychology from APU; master’s degrees in psychology and special education from California State University, Los Angeles; and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Southern California. Duprez approaches his work with new compassion and perspective on life, transformed by his battle with cancer. “Every person who comes into my office has something to overcome. My near-death experience has given me a deeper appreciation of my clients’ struggles, the priority of God, and the value of community and hope.”

Originally published in the Summer '14 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.