There’s nothing funny about a brain tumor, but comedy power couple Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan leaned on humor to survive the difficult diagnosis.
It was during a routine visit to the pediatrician with their kids when the doctor noticed something very wrong with Jeannie.
“She noticed I was leaning toward her and she’s like, ‘What’s wrong with your ear?’” Jeannie told InsideEdition.com. “I said, ‘I don’t know. It stopped working.’”
The actress, producer and mother of five explained that she had actually lost hearing long before the pediatrician noticed, but put it off “because that’s what busy people do. 'Oh, I guess I’m not going to hear out of that ear anymore.'”
But Jeannie finally made time to see a specialist, which is when doctors found a 2.5 inch tumor on her brain stem – a risky position considering the tumor was surrounded by nerves that could leave her paralyzed.
“It was pretty terrifying,” her comedian husband, Jim, said.
Fortunately, the surgery was a success, but rest and recovery took a toll on their family. In the difficult time, they turned to the medium they knew best – comedy.
“Humor is the only thing that got us through,” Jeannie explained.
Jim added, “Jeannie would come out of an MRI and say, ‘Write this down, it’s funny.’ There’s something empowering [about] making it humorous.”
One of their ideas at the time was a cooking show, featuring Jim preparing meals for Jeannie through her feeding tube.
Jim even incorporated her health into his new stand-up special, “Noble Ape,” in which he jokes that he wondered what would happen if the surgery was less successful: “If anything ever happens to my wife, those kids are going to be put up for adoption.”
But the family made it out of the scary diagnosis stronger, and Jeannie is nearly back up to her full strength, thanks to hard work and physical therapy.
“I am doing really well. I am working with one vocal cord, but I am able to make much noise,” Jeannie said, joking, “much to his chagrin.”