Laughter Helps Me Cope With Myasthenia Gravis

Retha De Wet avatar

by Retha De Wet |

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I tend to laugh a lot, which can serve many different functions. A nervous giggle can indicate anxiety, a belly laugh may follow a moment of hilarity, and sometimes laughing is the only way to deal with an overwhelming or uncomfortable situation.

My name, Retha, is derived from Margaretha, which is a variant of Margaret. The name comes from the Greek and Latin words for “pearl.”

However, I have always felt more of a connection to the African name, Rethabile. Simply put, Rethabile means “we are happy” or just “happiness.” If there’s one thing most people remember after meeting me, it’s my happiness.

Retha laughs despite not feeling well. (Photo by Retha de Wet)

Of course, I am often asked, “How are you so happy in your situation?” “Situation” refers to my health, since many healthy people can’t pronounce myasthenia gravis (MG).

My most common response is, “Because I am.” I look for reasons to be happy and I find them. I’m sure if others try, they’ll be successful, too.

Unfortunately, happiness will not cure myasthenia gravis. It just adds light to the dark times of scary hospitalizations or symptom flare-ups. Laughing at the fact that I had Mestinon-induced diarrhea in a public toilet at a festival and nearly needed a diaper change in my early 20s was way more appealing than moping about it.

I’ve often heard that “your vibe attracts your tribe.” By focusing on the positives instead of fixating on the negatives, you tend to get along with and attract like-minded people.

The people who have remained in my life seldom cause me excessive stress. Because stress and anxiety can aggravate symptoms of myasthenia gravis, it seems my vibe and tribe have been better for my health as well. I not only have people who will laugh with me but who will also benefit my health!

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I won’t lie and say I laughed when I was diagnosed with MG. I cried and sulked like most of us do. The validation of actually receiving a diagnosis as someone with seronegative myasthenia gravis did momentarily put a smile on my face. Someone believed me.

I was diagnosed in 2013. There have been many tears shed and hearts broken between then and now. Despite struggling with my mental health at times, I have remained mostly happy. I didn’t do this on my own, however. It happened with a lot of therapy, antidepressants, and, most importantly, time.

I continue to look for and find reasons to smile. I will continue to fight every day so I can laugh as much as I want for as long as I want. Life is beautiful.


Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Hazel Wilson avatar

Hazel Wilson

My 62 year old husband was diagnosed with MG in April of 2020. He takes Mestinon and has IVIG infusion of Gammaplex every four weeks as well. He is currently on his last of five plasmapheresis treatments. I can tell, after 42 years of marriage if he is getting depressed and I tell him that he needs to stop his stinkin thinkin. We try to take a very short walk or change focus onto something positive.

Retha De Wet avatar

Retha De Wet

Your husband is very lucky to have you by his side! I must say, having a partner to pull you out of your depressive stints is a great blessing. Never underestimate the value you add to his quality of life!

AmyWeiss avatar


I enjoy your column. You put into words how I have felt at some point over the last 4 years with this disease.


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