Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2015

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Page 25 of 43

I n a lifetime rich with learning, few experiences have taught me as much as cancer. But I still have one burning question. What is the meaning of cancer? And whose answers can I believe? at's the kind of conundrum you take to someone like Marianne Williamson. A er three trips though cancer, I've discovered I'm a member of an invisible army of survivors. Nearly 14.5 million of us with a history of cancer were alive in America in January 2014, according to the Amer- ican Cancer Society. ese days in America, two in three cancer patients live ve years or longer—a suc- cess rate that would have been a pipe dream just a few years ago. However, the blessing of life arrives with problems. It turns out that we cancer survivors are magnets for unsought advice from every would-be diagnostician, biochemist, crystal healer, kibitzer and conspiracy theorist we chance to meet. People mean well. But it's wearing. My pet peeve is folks who tell me I caused my own cancer by holding on to old resentments. In Los An- geles, where I live, this opinion is common. I trace it back to readings and misreadings of the writings of New Age thinkers such as Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life), Caroline Myss (Why People Don't Heal and How ey Can) and Rhonda Byrne ( e Secret). Ideas that sound lovely in the abstract (your thoughts create your reality, including "dis-ease") can turn mean and hurtful in practice, especially when aimed at someone grappling with a life-threat- ening illness. e adult children of a friend of mine forbade her to mention her Stage IV ovarian cancer in their pres- ence. ey told her she was "feeding" the cancer by acknowledging it. A woman I met at a conference nodded sympatheti- cally as I described the sadness of knowing that a dear friend was near death from ovarian cancer, whereas, 15 years a er my diagnosis, here I stood. "I wonder what in you wanted to live, and what in her didn't?" the woman mused. Statements like these are rude—but are they wrong? I wanted clarity, and Williamson agreed to help me talk it out. Williamson is, of course, an avatar of New Age spir- ituality who has been lecturing since the early 1980s on the spiritual text A Course in Miracles. Her 1992 best-seller, A Return to Love, was the rst of a doz- en popular books she's penned. In 2014 she ran for Congress, taking on such issues as Citizens United, income inequality and the pollution of our food sup- ply. In discussing cancer, we move from spirituality to medicine to politics and back again. I begin with a true story that always makes my point. A few years back, I met a woman at a chic dinner party in Santa Monica. Told I was undergo- ing cancer treatment, she smiled brightly and said, " ank God I don't store my anger! Would you pass the salmon?" Williamson's rst response blasts through the phone."WHAT?" A er a few observations that we agree are o the record, Williamson settles on this reaction: "It's ex- traordinary the foolishness that passes for spiritual wisdom these days." My next question: If cancer is not a manifestation of my own inner anger, then what is it, and why do people run around quoting thinkers like Williamson to explain it? "Anyone can be taken out of context, but what I have said is that thought is the creative consciousness for all experience," she responds. "But that doesn't mean that the person who contracts the illness is necessarily the one whose consciousness was wrong-minded. For example, a child gets a brain tumor that we know is related to a carcinogen that's in the river near where that child lives. Did the diseased condition come from consciousness? Absolutely—the fact that we put short-term economic gain before the health and MARIANNE WILLIAMSON SHINES A LIGHT ON ILLNESS ~BY ANNE STOCKWELL~ WHY WE GET CANCER 26 wholelifetimes.com

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