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Olivia Clarke

Olivia Clarke is a Region native and breast cancer survivor who begins a new survivor-themed column in today's Forum section.

Potty humor can't cure cancer, but it can remind us to laugh and live.

That's the mantra of Region native and cancer survivor, Olivia Silver, who's made it her mission to remind us of humor's healing properties.

Her new blog, Humor Beats Cancer, is gaining a buzz in the community of young adults suffering from the disease's many trying forms.

On the Humor Beats Cancer website, you'll read about a colon cancer survivor joking about the ability of doctors to replace lost limbs with fake ones but lamenting the inability of medical science to create replacement rectums.

A testicular cancer survivor on the blog details embarrassing moments when nurses provided exams in the nether regions.

And one breast cancer survivor pokes fun at the name of her surgical procedure — "bilateral, nipple-sparing mastectomy with expander reconstruction" — inviting blog readers to "say it five times fast."

Aside from their ability to laugh at aspects of their rigorous treatment, those who have flocked to Olivia Silver's blog have something else in common.

Most are young professionals who were wrapped in the grind of careers and working full time while fighting for their lives.

A Region native and breast cancer survivor, Olivia knows that score all too well.

Now she's doing all she can to remind young professionals struggling with cancer — and frankly all of us — that healing humor offers respite, even in the darkest depths of despair.

Olivia is a daughter of the Region we all should get to know.

Fifteen years ago, she sat across from me in The Times Munster newsroom. Longtime Times readers, and her Bishop Noll classmates in Hammond, will remember her as Olivia Clark.

I know her as one of the first friends I made after moving to Northwest Indiana about 15 years ago.

From 2003 to 2006, Olivia served Times readers as the education reporter before working as our Illinois editor for a year.

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In 2006, she left for other professional pursuits and currently lives in Chicago and works in public relations for a global law firm.

We remained connected through Facebook over the years, and her social media posts in 2015 knocked her longtime friends back on our heels.

At the age of 35, Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Throughout the next year, we watched as she endured the rigors of chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy.

"I worked full time through the whole thing," Olivia recalled last week.

"One thing you realize is there really isn't that much out there for young professionals going through cancer."

Her cancer now in remission, Olivia says she has been working to do something about that.

In the Humor Beats Cancer blog, she has created a virtual community of cancer survivors and fighters in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

She rightly notes many cancer services are geared to either young children or older adults.

In the case of her blog, Olivia says she's filling that void for young adults while injecting a cure, if not for the body then at least for the soul, through laughter.

"One reason I started Humor Beats Cancer was because I kept having these odd experiences, and I wondered if I was alone," Olivia wrote in her own blog entry. "I would think, 'Maybe I’m the only one seeing this dark comedy play out in front of me.'

"But what I’ve learned from the amazing response to this blog — I’m most definitely not alone. We all are or have been in this weird alternate universe that is sometimes sad, sometimes funny and all the time real."

I invite all Region folks — especially those battling cancer — to visit the Humor Beats Cancer blog at www.humorbeatscancer.com/

If cancer patients can find a way to laugh at aspects of their life-and-death struggles, we all can spare kindness for our fellow humans.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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