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Living with Cancer

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this seventh post, we hear one question.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

There are 10-million people with cancer. Recently I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer and given a period remaining to live. And yet I am still alive today. Is there a path for me to do my spiritual work before I pass on? 

2 replies on “Living with Cancer”

This is a deep teaching, experienced by the questioner and the one offered by Thich Nhat Hanh. In the 70’s I supported a woman with multiple sclerosis, as a nutritionist and cook. She was very young, just married and longing for a child. The doctors had told her that having a child wasn’t possible, as she might die before practising motherhood.
She found it very hard to change her diet, and I couldn’t do much for her, when she sabotaged the regime of the diet she chose to eat. I said goodbye and a couple of years later I met her husband, who looked very pleased and happy to inform me that he was a father and that his wife was healthy and cured of all ailment that she suffered before.
His wife began to write poems for her future child, holding on to her desire to be a mother one day. Something inside of her believed strongly, it seems. Slowly, but gradually, she began to recover from all symptoms, and her hair grew back. The love that she expressed for her child in the poems she wrote seemed to also address her own inner child and this love worked miracles in her body as well. Shortly after she gave birth to a healthy child and all was good in this family of 3. I was so moved by this father’s story!
When I listened to the woman in this recording, asking for advice to practice spiritual work before she passed on, I could hear her pain through her voice, the tiredness.
I’m glad that she had the chance to be present in this sangha, and that she found peace on both sides of the veil, when she has passed on.

I am grateful to find this podcast. I will put it on the list to listen to. I also want to recommend a book about living with cancer, and the decision to die gracefully. It is called Becoming Earth, by Eva Saulitis. She died in 2015 and wrote this profound collection of essays in the last months of her life. Anyone living with cancer or contemplating morality should read it.

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