When comedian Jim Gaffigan‘s wife Jeannie was diagnosed with a large brain tumor last year, the couple of 15 years only knew one way to cope: with humor.
Now that Jeannie is feeling “great” as she continues to recover after undergoing a nine-hour surgery to remove the tumor last April, they’ve turned her diagnosis and recovery into the basis of their new comedy special Noble Ape.
“Timeline-wise we were already going to be doing a special, it just didn’t have anything to do with medicine,” Jeannie tells PEOPLE. “We changed all the material based on this crazy experience. There was a new glimpse at life that we had never seen before.”
As the mom-of-five leaned on Jim for support, she says being married to a comedian came with its perks.
“I was amazed at his ability to kind of jump into the caregiving role and his comic ability to look to transform situations into something that wasn’t as horrible,” Jeannie says. “I couldn’t really walk by myself and it’s really difficult for someone who’s so much of a caregiver to have to call people to help them to get up and walk to the bathroom. It’s really humiliating. So, Jim made this whole scenario where he was this horse and carriage, where he would come to the bed and be like ‘Your carriage, m’lady,’ and then he’d like put my arms around his neck and then he’d make this galloping sound as he’d walk to the bathroom. He made it fun. I mean, it wasn’t fun but it was fun.”
Their journey is also what inspired them to take part in Tylenol’s #HowWeCare campaign, which aims to help caregivers by providing gift cards for services like Handy and Uber.
“You’re grateful for the opportunity to support this loved one and obviously it’s emotionally taxing but there’s a lot of commitment that you have to undertake,” says Jim, who was often making trips to the hospital. “We’re in the position where it didn’t financially cripple us but just doctors appointments and adjusting kind of the home situation for the post surgery care, you can use the help.”
Looking back on their journey to recovery, Jeannie says “life happens and we had no choice. We couldn’t be like, ‘Yeah, we just don’t have time for a brain tumor.’ ”
“So, we just dealt with it like we deal with everything else,” she says. We just kept going forward and sometimes funny things happen along the way and we chose to look at that rather than being like, ‘Oh, woe is me. Why me? Why me?’ It was like, lets just deal with this.”
Noble Ape is now playing in select theaters and available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and on demand.
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