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Shelby Scoffield: Learning to laugh

Published: Friday, Aug. 28 2015 11:43 a.m. MDT

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks at the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Saturday afternoon, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks at the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Saturday afternoon, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve after the Saturday afternoon session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve after the Saturday afternoon session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson pats the head of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve after the Saturday afternoon session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-say Saints, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson pats the head of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve after the Saturday afternoon session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-say Saints, Oct. 4, 2008. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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.

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