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Chicago Teen Using Laughs To Cope With Cancer

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Mai Martinez Mai Martinez
Mai Martinez co-anchors CBS 2 Chicago’s weekend evening newscasts and...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – They say laughter is the best medicine, and a Chicago father-son duo is really put that old adage to the test.

Miles Austrevich has a rare form of brain cancer, and his father says they’ve been fighting it with meds, chemotherapy and radiation.

Now, as CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, they’re fighting it with humor.

Every week or so, Miles Austrevich checks into Children’s Memorial Hospital for his cancer treatments. The 19-year-old first learned he had a cancerous brain tumor when he was diagnosed on Nov. 20, 2008.

Miles had a recurrence on December 8, 2009, and another on June 4, 2011. He now has three new masses growing in his brain, but through it all, Miles has maintained his sense of humor even referring to his cancer as “the gift that just keeps on giving.”

While it may seem odd to joke about cancer, for Miles, laughter is the best medicine.

That’s why his father, comedian Len Austrevich, launched the Jokes 4 Miles campaign, hoping to collect 5,000 jokes online to help lift his son’s spirits.

Since Jan. 1, 2012, more than 200 jokes have come in from across the U.S. and around the world and, every time Miles comes in for a treatment, he has his MacBook or iPad in tow so he can watch the jokes people have sent in.

“If I’m laughing, I’m not thinking about what’s going on here,” Miles said.

Even his attending physician, Dr. Jason Fangusaro of Children’s Memorial Hospital, said it’s helping.

“It’s improving his quality of life,” explained Fangusaro.

Miles’ father, Len Austrevich said what’s surprised him most about the response is all the well wishes and “the real sincerity behind what people are doing.”

On one clip, a well-wisher hoped Miles has a “super-quick, lightning-speed recovery.”

Another simply said, “I’m rooting for you dude,” while yet another told Miles, “I think you are an inspiration.”

Celebrities also have been wishing Miles well, among them one of Miles’ favorite actors, Will Arnett, who ended his video message with “I just wanted to say I love you.”

Miles was shocked when he saw the video.

“That’s one of the most special jokes that I’ve gotten,” he said.

It’s not just jokes that are making Miles smile. Rapper Ill Ambition created a rap just for Miles, including the lines “Miles keep doing what you’re doing, man. I love your attitude.”

Miles said that was one of the “coolest” messages he’s received so far.

“It’s just energizing. It’s crazy, it’s such a good feeling,” Miles said.

If you’d like to send Miles a joke, stop by any Leona’s Restaurant location in Chicago on Friday, Feb. 3 or Feb. 10 between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. The restaurants will have cameras set up to record jokes for Miles. Or you can record a joke on your own and submit it to their website. Find out the guidelines for submitting a joke here.

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