Cancer — A Disingenuous Disease: The Enduring Human Spirit

Ninth in a series

It occurred to me that we often feel very alone during a life-challenging illness. Since openly sharing my journey with Stage One Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, I’m amazed by the support from my healing community peers and Edge Magazine readers. We are lucky to have access to so many integrated healing and wellness resources here; there is a path and opportunity for everyone.

September, the anniversary of my diagnosis, was a month of emotional ups and downs leading to new levels of self-trust. Although there are people who question my choices — even my sanity — it’s important to follow one’s own path. I’m grateful to Tim Miejan and Cathy Jacobson of The Edge for allowing me to share this journey. Hopefully others will benefit.

Some beacons lighting my path are readers who share their own stories. Another is being gifted the honor of a sweat lodge, my first ever, by Claudia and her husband Jim. When she told me she wanted to do a sweat lodge for me, I didn’t understand the impact it would have. I was told to invite some friends, and Claudia said she would invite some clients who came to her as a result of the July Edge article. We met on September 21, the eve of Fall Equinox.

The sacred space of the sweat lodge enveloped us like the womb it represents, connecting us to our ultimate nurturing Mother: Earth. The lodge represents Earth Mother, Feminine Divine, Sacred Mother, and the Healed-Mother. Inside this womb with caring people, I realized my less-than-ideal childhood no longer mattered; I experience love now. Here, it’s possible to accept the kind of healing that happens between humans and Spirit.

The healing was facilitated by medicine people. Inside were Claudia and two other singers; outside, her husband, Jim, and two other brethren tended the fire that heated the stones. Nine of us prayed, meditated and sought healing. Healing can be accelerated when we allow others to witness our struggle, while simultaneously accepting the universal healing energy. One beauty of a ceremony like a sweat lodge is that anyone present can be healed if they are open to the possibility.

Leading up to and following the sweat lodge, I had several conversations with women who faced cancer and successfully rebounded. For Kathy, it took four years before doctors declared the small egg-sized tumor on her neck “dead.”

“It also took me those same four years to overcome the emotional and psychological impact that cancer had on my life,” Kathy shared. “I put my nose to the grindstone.”

Her only focus was on her health and her desire to get well. “My house and yard were neglected; I focused on me!” She admitted, “Once I committed myself to getting well, information just fell into my path.” Thank you, Kathy, for your courage and willingness to reach out, unselfishly helping others since 2004. Her list of resources is posted on

In 1995, Robin had breast cancer; she had a lumpectomy, never skipping a beat at work. In 2000, a lump on her thigh was an encapsulated cancerous tumor that was removed. She persevered, although fatigue caught up with her and she found herself falling asleep just sitting in a chair during her 10-minute breaks. After 29 years of service to the same employer, she retired in 2005. The next year, a mammogram showed cancer in both breasts; she had a double mastectomy and then chose prosthesis over reconstructive surgery. Robin is content with her decisions.

The conversations we had helped deepen my understanding of the enduring nature of the human spirit. Robin is living a healthy post-cancer life. To her, “life feels good!” I heard music and delight in her voice. As we talked further, she shared a few gems about what is making a difference to prosper in retirement. Like Kathy, she made lifestyle changes. Robin found foods that helped regain her strength and noticed that she didn’t suffer from the devastating effects of radiation like others did.

I asked Robin to answer a personal question, and she eagerly agreed. “Anything to help,” she said.

I asked: “Did you experience any early childhood trauma? I ask because there is evidence that painful childhood experiences seem to greatly increase one’s risk of cancer.”

“Absolutely,” Robin said. “Yes, emotional trauma. That was why I decided to set better boundaries with people. I am changing old patterns of behavior. I now see discomfort as a gift. When I am uncomfortable, I know I’m acting in new ways; this makes me happy!”

It reminds me of when friends and clients ask, “How do I know I’m not crazy?” As long as you’re asking the question you’re not crazy; it’s when you stop asking that you may have gone astray. From another’s viewpoint, though, you may appear crazy when you follow your spiritual path.

Kathy’s and Robin’s stories are only two selected from multitudes. Not everyone lives to share their stories. Again, I am reminded of the fragility and the strength that is part of being human. These women both have overcome difficult challenges. They are alive. They are wonderful models of strength, empowerment and support. Both reached out to share their stories, their lessons, and their support. Thank you for your impassioned courage to live and share.

Yes, there is reason for illness. Learn the lessons that the suffering has brought, see it with new eyes, feel it with a new heart. Accept the wisdom of the lesson. Wash it clean with your thoughts, love, self-respect. Treat yourself with the utmost of care. Fill your body, mind, and spirit with good food, good thoughts, and good actions.

Just as in goal-setting, be clear about what you want and information could just fall into your path, like Kathy experienced. Being open is all it takes. It could be a book “glowing” on the bookstore shelf, a friend’s comment that gives you new insight, a TV or radio interview leading to foods that are best for you right now, or an invitation to a meditation circle.

A song drifts into my mind,

“Go pray upon the mountain.
Go pray beside the ocean.
Wash your spirit clean.

Thank you for the suffering.
Be grateful for the lessons
Wash your spirit clean.”

The words are from the song, “Wash Your Spirit Clean,” by Walela. They buoy me like a loving mother’s womb, the loving spirit of the Divine, and the love we can hold for ourselves.

We can heal. We can endure. We can listen to the inner voice that guides us bravely on our own journey. Yes, we do stray from our path sometimes. It is the return to the path that allows us to be grateful for the suffering and thankful for the lessons. I cannot possibly know the correct path for anyone else, and the Divine only knows how often I stray from my own path.

The Fool in the Tarot deck appears to blindly trust. Yet, it is the Fool who trusts the universe to meet her and support her on your journey. There may be a fine line between insanity and divinity. It is you who will feel the difference and know; that is all that matters.

Suggested Tips to Regain Health
Here are some things that both Kathy and Robin found helpful:

  • Obtain and maintain an alkaline pH in the body
  • Improve your sense of well-being
  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Keep your cells healthy and strong
  • Increase the body’s oxygen levels
  • Shut off the news (who needs that negativity?)
  • Set better boundaries with yourself and others
  • Use prayer and meditation, for example, Spring Forest Qigong
  • Access the valuable resources of Pathways (see my March 2012 Edge article)
  • Decide what is best for you
  • Book resources: Knock Out: Interviews with Doctors Curing Cancer — And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place, by Suzanne Somers; Wake up Happy: A handbook of Change and Memoirs of Recovery & Hope, by Jill Muehrcke; Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom, by Christine Northrup; and The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

Listen to Edge contributor Cheryl Hiltibran describe her journey on the archived Edge Talk Radio program “Innerviews” with Cathryn Taylor by clicking here:



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