Living with Cancer Treatment by Carol P. Christ


At the end of July 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 3 aggressive cancer. As of this week, I will have been receiving a very high dose of chemo (5 hours on the drip every 3 weeks) for 6 months, with 2 treatments to go. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was in a state of shock. As I was about to leave the oncologist’s office, I said to the doctor, “stage 3 is pretty bad, isn’t it?” He responded, “Well, it could have been stage 4.”

As I understand it, the prognosis for becoming cancer free for stages 1 and 2 is good, for stage 4 it is unlikely, while for stage 3, the chances are something like 50-50. Although my primary oncologist declines to make predictions, I was told by a junior doctor that with the type of cancer I have, my chances were about 40% that the surgery that would follow chemo would remove all of the cancer.

Despite the fact that my chances were less than 50-50, for the most part I remained optimistic that I would be one of the lucky ones. I have not suffered depression, nor have I been overcome with anxiety. Although my primary doctor and the others I have seen are not interested in discussing the effects of prayer, meditation, and visualization, to a one they have said that “attitude” makes a big difference.

I attribute my ability to remain optimistic to several factors. I am not afraid of death. I believe death is the ordinary ending of life. I do not expect life after death or rebirth. I do not fear judgment or punishment. I was present when my mother died and felt her embraced by love. I expect to experience this love when I die. I believe that in death I will be returned to the arms and body of the blessed mother who has sustained my life. Nonetheless, I am not ready to die.

I was much loved by my Christian Science grandmother, and though she did not practice Christian Science, my mother shared her mother’s belief that health is the natural state of the human body. Aside from measles, mumps, and chicken pox, my brothers and I were rarely sick and almost never went to the doctor. Throughout my life I have enjoyed robust health and excellent physical strength. Before my diagnosis I had not been prescribed any pills—not for blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, or any of the other common diseases that my friends have, nor have I been hospitalized since breaking my arm at age 13. Despite my diagnosis, I never felt that I was in the process of dying.

When my mother was diagnosed with what must have been stage 4 cancer 30 years ago, she told my brother she was going to fight her cancer as long as she could, but when “her time was up,” she intended to go quickly. And this is exactly what she did. My mother was burned by radiation and suffered from chemo, and neither treatment gave her any extra time. When her sister was diagnosed with cancer 2 years later, she refused treatment, saying that she preferred not to suffer as her sister had. I always imagined that if I got cancer, I might make the same choice.

Despite my suspicion of cancer treatments, I never once questioned my doctor, who is the best oncologist in Crete. I entered into a state of stoic passivity that served me well.

I was very sick at the time of my diagnosis, and it was to be expected that a very high dose of chemo would take a toll on my body. The first symptoms that I was not well were loss of appetite and loss of energy or stamina. I lost more than twenty pounds and had to force myself to eat. By time I was diagnosed, I had completely given up on unpacking the many boxes that were still strewn around my new apartment in Heraklion, following my move from Lesbos just two weeks before I fell ill. I spent most of August and September sleeping, resting, or staring at the sky and the flowers I managed to plant on my balconies.

Because I had water from the cancer pressing on all of my organs, there was literally no room for my stomach or intestines to function normally. I continued to suffer from lack of appetite and lack of energy, and also from constipation during the first months of treatment. These symptoms caused mild feelings of nausea and discomfort, which disappeared when the chemo reduced the water in my abdominal cavity. I began to have leg cramps that were treated with magnesium pills. I was lucky not to have severe pain or headaches. The chemotherapy is painless, but the day is long. I leave home in a taxi at 8:15 am and arrive home just before 7 pm. After chemo, I am more tired than usual for about a week, and then I have 2 better weeks.

About 2 months into the chemo, I fell 3 times in my apartment due to numbness caused by neuropathy in my right foot, which also led to balance problems. I began to use a shepherd’s cane decorated with ribbons and stopped walking outside my apartment without help. I had not been doing much walking anyway, due to lack of energy, so this was not a major change. I took advantage of a new treatment called the cold cap, and I did not lose my hair until recently. (The woman who administered it was absent during a treatment, and her replacement didn’t leave the cap on long enough.) I was disappointed, but I will get a wig.

In early October, I received a note from my tax preparer that the extension on my US taxes would end on October 15. The need to find and organize my tax information got me out of bed. Since then, I have made an effort to sleep normal hours, to write, and to finish unpacking and moving into my new home, with the help of my cleaning lady.

About that time, I had my first CT after three courses of chemo. The results were not good. The oncologist said that the chemo was working, but not as well as he had hoped. The surgeon told me that the radiologist who interpreted the CT wrote that there was cancer on the major vein that connects the stomach to the bowels. He wanted to get a second opinion, but if the reading was correct, the cancer on the vein would be inoperable.

The surgeon promised to get back to me quickly with the opinion of the second radiologist, but for some reason he did not. I was relieved at the delay, because I did not want bad news to be confirmed. I thought it unlikely that the radiologist had misread my results. I shifted from hoping to be one of the lucky ones, to hoping for a miracle. I opened myself fully to all of the healing prayers, energies, and meditations being sent to by my friends and readers of my books.

I still did not feel that I was in the process of dying, and for the most part, I was able to maintain an optimistic attitude. However, I would be lying if I said that I never worried that I might die without regaining my health. While working on the paper I had been asked by the director of the excavation team to write about religion in the Minoan village of Gournia, I became frustrated that I could not access all of the books and articles I needed online. I questioned whether I would be able to visit the Aegean Studies library in Pachia Ammos, Crete. When I was unpacking, I wondered if I would use all the beautiful china and silver I had accumulated again. When Christmas approached, I asked myself if would be worth it to buy a living tree, as I might not be alive in another year. Nonetheless, I worked on my paper, polished the silver for display in the china cabinet, and bought and decorated a large potted Christmas tree that is now on my balcony.

I had a second CT on December 1 and received the analysis on December 18. This time the results were extremely positive. There was no sign of cancer on the vein; the chemo was working well; the many small cancers on a soft tissue that are difficult to operate were reduced in size and fewer; and the cancer markers in my blood had gone from over 300 to 37. By the time of my next chemo, the blood markers were reduced to zero, which means that the cancer is inactive. One of my doctors told me that there is now a very good chance that the surgery (most probably in April) will be successful, and I will be cancer free. When I remarked that this news seemed like a miracle, she responded that it sometimes takes a while for the chemo to work. Nonetheless, I am certain that all of the loving energies being sent to me have played a crucial role in my healing. I am hopeful that the cancers in the soft tissue will be gone by the time of the surgery.

The good news is still sinking in. The fact that I no longer have thoughts that I might not be here in a few years, is a reminder that despite my optimism, I was afraid that I might die. It now seems likely that I will live. I thank the Goddess, my doctors, and my many friends, for this reason to hope. May it be so.

*Although the featured image is of a man taking chemo through his arm, it reflects my experience of sitting in a reclining chair, looking out at trees.

**Since my cancer diagnosis I have learned that many of my friends and colleagues have been on similar journeys, yet I didn’t know their stories. That is why I am sharing mine.

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.



Categories: Body, Embodiment, Feminism and Religion, General

Tags: , , , ,

61 replies

  1. How generous of you to share the details of your arduous journey with cancer, Carol. And how good to read that your positive attitude and the healing energy of friends sustained you and that you can bid cancer adieu. I attend a healing service with a small group in an Episcopal church that serves one of the poorest neighborhoods in Honolulu. I shall include you in my prayers when I go next on an upcoming Wednesday morning which is when it is usually held. Keep getting better and stronger and may you banish the invaders of your body completely. With much aloha, Dawn

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  2. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. You are a strong person. You personify the women in my book about the goddess worshiping culture that Marija Gimbutas describes. I send my love and heartfelt compassion for this most difficult part of your life’s journey. Your postings make the world a better place in which to live. My thoughts are with you as you go into surgery. May you have a full recovery and live life to the fullest once again. Sincerest best wishes. Ruth Welburn.

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  3. Thank you Carol for your story here, and so glad to hear the good news. I smile at the response of the doctors to any mention of meditation, miracles etc … it is so predictable, but I guess we can be thankful for their priority on the science they know.
    Love, Glenys

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read your post with some worry and trepidation but I am now in happy tears after finishing reading it. You may think this is an over the top reaction but I had my two brushes with cancer and not feeling that strong empathy is impossible. The chemo was extremely hard on me; especially the second time around (at one point I almost gave up) but I’m still here. So happy for your positive and very promising results. I hope that after your operation in April, you will be free of cancer for always. Rooting for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sure the loving energies sent your way contributed to your healing.

    Anyone living with cancer may want to visit Sophie Sabbage’s site https://www.cancerwhispering.com/ or red her books, The Cancer Whisperer and Lifeshocks and how to love them.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for sharing. Sorry you had a rough time and how scary to not know what would happen. I’m glad you are doing better and that things are really looking up! Wishing you continuing good health and enjoyment of your beautiful environment.

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  7. Really good to hear!

    Your previous post covered housekeeping. I remember protesting vigorously! (It’s a long story why I’m so adverse to simple chores). That said: straight after reading and commenting I, on impulse, flew in and cleaned the kitchen, with the idea in mind: this is for Carol. A prayer in action if you like. Smiles! All will be well.

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  8. My wife underwent an operation of colostomy some 26 years ago. Prior to that, she had to take 32 sittings of radiation. I am happy to state, that to-day, at 86 years of age, she is still around and able to do all her normal work. Initially, after the operation, she had to go every month for a check up, which gradually came down to every three months,and then only once a year. I don’t remember when that too stopped! For us, the surgeon who performed the surgery on her, was an Angel sent by God. To-day, there is no trace of any cancer in her body.

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  9. Sending healing energy from Siesta Key, Florida ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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  10. Thank you for this post and I’m so glad you got such good news! Lots of healing positive thoughts flying your way for the rest of your treatment and the surgery!

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  11. I had a small cancer in 2003 and had my uterus removed surgically. Fortunately, I didn’t need chemo or radiation. Three years ago, there was a small lump in my breast. The lump was removed, and the report said it was not cancerous. I’ve been very fortunate. I’m sitting here typing and wishing you the best possible fortune and complete healing. Thanks for your honest report. Now we all know exactly what to pray and meditate for on your behalf. Bright blessings for a complete healing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, Carol. Thank you for all your stories and your presence here. Honor to you for walking this path in beauty! A beeswax candle is burning all day this Brigid’s day for ongoing healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for Sharing Carol, and bless you by healing energy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dear Carol, thank you for sharing this deeply moving journey with us… so sorry you were confronted with cancer and chemo and so much uncertainty… my heart goes out to you… and also my blessings for your on-going health and recovery… your work was one of the stepping stones on my path to goddess and I honor your courage and wisdom. With love.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I gave up both my breasts to a double mastectomy eight years ago… my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer when she was 65 and my mother got cancer when she was 48 and gave up her left breast… twenty years later when she was 68 she lost her other breast to cancer but she lived for another twenty years and did not die of cancer. I was 68 when diagnosed with cancer in my left breast, and because of my mom’s history, I opted for a double mastectomy to get it over and done with. I was fortunate to have caught it early and did not need radiation or chemo. Every time I see my scarred and empty chest in the mirror it is like seeing my body inscribed with a choice for life… I feel blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Carol, I echo the sentiments of the women here who thank you for sharing your story. It’s so satisfying to read of your progress toward full health that I want to sing and dance, light candles to Brigid, and simply rejoice!

    Through the snow that’s falling here in Virginia, across thousands of miles, I send love and healing white light to you in Creta. Blessed be.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Carol,
    So often I remember you being here in MN and how much impact and energy we had with you and Judith. Thank you for giving so much of yourself then, and to all of us, over these good years of your envisioning a world of flourishing. I hold you in my prayers!
    Sincerely,
    Nancy Victorin-Vangerud

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  18. Dearest Carol,
    Thank you for sharing your story and I am so relieved to read the positive news. Your light continues to shine for so many of us! On this holy day when we celebrate Brigid, may Her healing extend to you.
    Sending love from California!
    Barbara Daughter

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  19. Thank you, Carol, for sharing your journey and sharing your news. You and your work have been so important to so many of us, and it is inspiring to me that you are allowing us to see your journey through illness and health. Please know that many of us are lighting candles for you, and sending you our healing, loving energies.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I think it is so courageous and such a gift to others that you have shared this story about living with cancer. I am so heartened by the current prognosis and I am warmed by the thought that so many of our thoughts might have helped.

    Your attitude is astonishing and I think you are a powerful model for others who are diagnosed with cancer or other rehabilitating diseases

    I also think it is also amazing that you do not fear death – and I suspect that this attitude also may influence the eventual outcome.

    Oh, I do wish you the very best – the very very best Carol. I hope that you will write more about your story as it evolves.

    Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Dear Carol,
    I am following you for quite a while and have always bee impressed by your strength and wisdom in writing. I remember that you had mentioned before about you being diagnosed with cancer, but I never got the entire picture of it being so serious. Therefore I thank you for being so brave to share here, the pain and treatments you had to go through and as well the story of your mother and the strengths she had shown and lived. It appears that you have inherited her strong mind, as I am happy to learn at the end of your writing that there is a positive turn of your conditions. Your mind is such an inspiration to all of us and I wish you much happier days ahead of you.

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  22. Thank you for sharing. Bless you on your journey. I send my love and healing thoughts and prayers.

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  23. I just wanted to stop in and send my support. Your story is full of so much – strength, our human pathway, human frailties, courage, facing life and thus death. So many emotions. You are a beacon. I include my prayers of love and continued health and healing on your journey.

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  24. Thank you for sharing your story Carol. I wrote small book that might be helpful to you, called Breast Cancer Hanging on by Red Thread, based in my experiences of Stage3 cancer. If you send my your address I can send a copy to you. With blessisngs for your complete healing.

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  25. Oh Carol, I know exactly how all this feels. I’ve been through cancer twice. The second time it was a malign brain tumor with a life expectance of a few months. Operation, chemo, radiation. All the time I said to my doctors, guys you work from outside with your medical knowledge, and I work from inside with my psychic body knowledge. We make it together or not at all. To my astonishment they didn’t laugh at me but were very happy with it. I had a truely horrible time, including a vegetative phase lying in my bed and doing nothing but watch the lovely beech tree outside. Not able to stand, to walk, to eat or drink. Maybe similar to that time you experienced. And during the whole time I felt embraced by the love of the Goddess and of my family and friends. And instead of dying I survived and got better and better. My doctors called me “a walking miracle”, and it felt like this. All this is 11 years ago now and the miracle still holds on, I lead a normal life. I wish you the same and give you a big hug!

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  26. I am so happy to read this! More love and light headed your way.
    Leanne

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  27. Dear Carol,

    Thank you for sharing the details of your journey. It was hard to read without tears in my eyes. It sounds very hopeful! I admire your courage and your spiritual strength. Your shepherd’s cane, decorated with ribbons, made me smile and brought to mind our encounter with a shepherd and his flock one day as we were heading out during your Fall Pilgrimage. I will be holding the vision for your full and complete recovery!

    With loving prayers and healing energy,
    Mary Beth

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  28. Thank you for sharing your very good news, Carol. I keep your “She Who Changes” on what passes for a shrine, and send blessings to you each time I look at it. Brigid’s mantle continue to cover you, and her fire live in your spirit!

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  29. Blessings on your healing journey, dearest Carol, and thank you so much for sharing in such detail. (Thanks to all the other readers who have shared too.) I know there have been many of us sending you daily prayers and love since the beginning of your illness, and I will continue to do this, asking the Goddess to heal and protect you, one of Her most beloved daughters. I know you are not afraid of death – but we who love you are not ready to lose you. You still have so much work to do and wisdom to share!

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  30. Thank you for sharing your journey. We are all walking this walk, whether we speak it or not. Blessing on your path.

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  31. I appreciate your candor in talking about your cancer and telling us about all you’ve experienced over the last months. You have been on my mind and in my thoughts. Knowing that you are feeling better and that you are full of hope is cause for celebration.

    Your post has brought up lots of feelings and thoughts for me. My first (of four) cancer diagnoses came in 1985 when I was forty years old. Melanoma and later breast cancer have been my challenges. I’m especially glad you wrote about the importance of attitude—but what does that mean? Probably different things to different people. This idea about how I might communicate with my own body has been valuable for me.

    “At the very instant that you think, ‘I am happy,’ a chemical messenger translates your emotion which has no solid existence whatever in the material world, into a bit of matter so perfectly attuned to your desire that literally every cell in your body learns of your happiness and joins in. The fact that you can instantly talk to 50 trillion cells in their own language is just as inexplicable as the moment when nature created the first photon out of empty space. Deepak Chopra in Quantum Healing p. 127

    The range of cancer diagnoses called Stage 4 can be quite broad. In early 2017 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. With appropriate treatment, which has been a relatively non invasive chemo pill, I live with a stable tumor and some chronic pain. My oncologist recently declared me in “remission” although I must continue taking the oral dose of chemo for the rest of my life. Then she smiled at me and said, “You may live long enough to die of something else.”

    Six months after that 2017 diagnosis I signed up for the fall 2017 Pilgrimage believing that traveling to Crete on the Pilgrimage would be an important part of my healing—and it was! In January of 2020, my life partner, Jeanne and I signed up for the fall 2021 Pilgrimage. We look forward to the possibility of joining you as you guide us around the ancient sites where many other Goddess loving women walked, laughed and sang together.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. I’m so happy for you that your cancer has retreated!
    Thank you for sharing– it is not so easy to write about such personal struggles.
    May you shine in the light.

    Liked by 1 person

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