The Unwanted Gift

Hope, like the gleaming taperís light,
 Adorns and cheers our way;
And still, as darker grows the night,
 Emits a brighter ray.

    Oliver Goldsmith

Kevin was 19 years old and enjoying the first semester of his sophomore year at Temple University. With an attitude typical of a college sophomore, he was ignoring the pain that was becoming increasingly frequent. He simply dismissed it and went on. Things changed during Christmas break. After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the pain was so bad he could not sleep.

Kevin went to see his doctor. His testicle was visibly swollen, and the doctor diagnosed an infection for which he prescribed antibiotics. Ten days later, the swelling had not gone down; an ultrasound was ordered. As Kevin prepared to return to school for the spring term, he received a call from his doctor. The doctor told him that he had a tumor and to "check into the hospital tomorrow, youíre having surgery". During surgery, Kevinís testicle was removed; the tumor was malignant. After surgery Kevin had to undergo radiation treatments which left him extremely weak, and still in intense pain.

The stabbing pain in his abdomen was so bad that he went to the emergency room. He was admitted to the hospital on a Friday afternoon. It was discovered that there was a mass in his abdomen that was pressing on his urethra. He began chemotherapy on Sunday.

When Kevin thinks of this weekend, he remembers everything moving with great speed. Events were moving so quickly that he did not have time to think. Given time, he might have considered the long term consequences of the chemotherapy. He might have thought of some day becoming a father and banked some of his sperm "just in case". Instead he started the first of four demanding and aggressive rounds of chemotherapy.

The side effects of the treatment were devastating. Kevin and his family were mentally and emotionally drained. He was down to 110 pounds, had lost his hair and eyebrows, his blood counts were down; he was hospitalized. He and his family were demoralized. "If your look sick, you feel sick, and people react to the way you look."

At this point Kevinís oncologist suggested that the family contact Cancer Hope Network. A Cancer Hope Network Support Volunteer came to the hospital and spent time with Kevin and his family. When Kevin was at his lowest point, he had tangible proof of survivorship sitting at his bedside.

Kevin finished his chemotherapy treatments and subsequent surgery determined that the mass in his abdomen had been reduced to scar tissue. Kevin felt that the Cancer Hope Network support had such a profound effect on his recovery that he told his father he wanted to be able to give that same help to others. The day after his five-year checkup showed him to be cancer free, Kevin called Cancer Hope Network, and asked to be trained as a volunteer.

Kevin finished school and started to date Melissa. Kevin and Melissa had known each other slightly since high school, but a cousin of Kevinís saw a future for them. As they got to know each other, Kevin talked about his cancer. They both wanted to have children, but did not know if this would be possible. In the end their devotion to each other diminished their fears, and they decided to take a "leap of faith". They married and in January Melissa gave birth to a baby boy.

Melissa, Kevin and Nicolas

In the years since Kevin was trained as a Cancer Hope Network Support Volunteer, he continues to "give back" to many cancer patients the same kind of hope he received during the darkest time of his life.

About the Cancer Hope Network

We hear stories of courage every day at Cancer Hope Network. They are the stories of cancer survivors who are now able to provide encouragement, support, and hope to individuals and their families undergoing their own battle with cancer. It is the great privilege of Cancer Hope Network to bring them together.

The moment cannot be controlled, only allowed.

    Vicki Woodyard

We may all be gracious receivers when getting the good things in life, but what about receiving unwanted gifts? The usual reaction to cancer is complete rejection and dejection. These are natural, human reactions and must be gone through. Anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, we have all read about the stages that must be worked through.

However, there is a powerful spiritual principle that we can use in dealing with cancer. It is the principle of non-resistance. Non-resistance contains great healing power.

The mind cannot accept cancer. It will spend all of its time bouncing between the opposites of illness and health. The emotions cannot accept cancer. They are too involved in feeling until they are exhausted. The spirit, however, is fully capable of receiving everything as a gift.

The spirit is roomy and ready to receive anything that it is offered. Another word for the spirit is awareness. Awareness can accomodate cancer. It can not only accomodate it, it can heal you of its burden and sorrows.

How do we access awareness so that it may go to work on our behalf? First we must admit that of themselves, the mind and emotions have failed to help us deal with cancer effectively. The mind may have checked out books and tapes...the emotions may have had many therapeutic cries, but there remain kernels of rage and frustration.

These kernels are dissolved in the light of awareness. This is where we are able to receive the unwanted gift of cancer. Sitting in silence, admitting that our minds and emotions cannot deliver us, we turn to awareness.

Perhaps we have never allowed ourselves the luxury of just sitting in silence, but now we have a reason. Cancer is here whether we want it or not, and receiving it as a gift would be a wonderful thing. It is more than wonderful--it is healing.

The stars of surrender shine in the dark night of the soul and nowhere else. The peace and power of God surround someone sitting in his own silent spot in the universe. The gift of cancer is receiving the grace of God. God will never let us down, no matter how much suffering we are asked to bear. Cancer can lead us within, to the inner silence that is our birthright.

When you choose to receive the unwanted gift of cancer, your life will begin to change. It will be come sweeter and more graceful. You will carry a piece of peace with you wherever you go. You may find yourself telling jokes and acting silly. Those who know you will find it surprising, but not you. Because grace is such a light thing--it flys into the face of the unknown and is able to laugh and enjoy the journey.

Cancer has come to you and you have received it as a gift. The mind could never do this...the emotions would never even try. But now you know that your true nature is awareness and awareness turns the lead of sorrow into the gold of grace. You have come home.
Bob and Vicki Woodyard

- Vicki Woodyard

About the Author

Vicki Woodyard writes, "Our only daughter died of cancer when she was seven [ed. note: she would have been 31 this year], so we know the devastation that cancer brings in its wake. A lifetime of walking the spiritual path has resulted in some wisdom that can be shared. Nurturing the now is a way of living in the present with peace and optimism. You must yearn to return - to the living experience that you are. Now-consciousness is always newly-minted. You can only surrender and watch what happens. There is no expectancy or fear - just a commitment to be a witness to what is, which is always a mystery. Awareness of our suffering is the first step out of suffering. Nurturing the now simply means to be here now, knowingly, and with love for yourself. Enlightenment is everyone's birthright and it is found only in conscious surrender to the living moment."

Vicki Woodyard is a spiritual writer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Since her husband Bobís diagnosis with multiple myeloma in 2000, they have been active participants in The Wellness Community there. Speaking and writing about their daily experiences with cancer and the lessons that they are learning is healing, says Vicki. "I hope that people will visit our website and read for a while. They will see that the gift in cancer is growth. Grace surrounds us, enfolds us, even in our darkest hours. Receiving the unwanted gift is an act of courage that is always rewarded." Visit to learn more about this remarkable spiritual couple, and to understand what it is like to Nurture the Now.

This last few weeks have seen one of my own family members diagnosed with cancer, and has once again reminded me just how much loss this disease has wrought in the lives of so many. Someone you know is battling cancer, right now. Get in touch with them today, and let them know that you are thinking about them, that you are keeping them in your prayers, and take this opportunity to express your love, and your hope.

To Vicki and Bob, Kevin and Melissa, Laura K, Anne N, Caroline W, Sister Sharon and so many, many others: Our prayers of hope and healing thoughts go with you in your struggle. Perhaps this is a good time to reexamine all the gifts life has brought me. Even the ones I didn't think I wanted!

Peace and Light, Michael

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