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Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Embodying Cancer

I am infinitely awed by human bodies including my own.  I revel and delight in the full range of embodied human experience.  Now, in my late fifties, post-menopausal, I am experiencing another common embodied human experience, I have stage four squamous cell cancer in my body.  This embodied human experience, for me, is also powerful, amazing and fascinating.


When I first got my diagnosis four deities with whom I have long relationships, showed up and offered to work this spiritual journey of embodied cancer with me:  The Norse trickster god Loki, the Christian god Jesus, the Irish goddess Brigid, and The Virgin of Guadalupe.  I gratefully accepted their offer and set up my home altar to welcome them.  I poured a shot of Jameson for Brigid, some wine for Jesus, Tequila for The Virgin of Guadalupe, and cheap whiskey for Loki.  I asked if they would surround me with a protective bubble and be my partners in this work whatever the outcome.  Loki for the humor and curiosity, Jesus for the deep healing compassion, Brigid for the hard work of forging the tools I need for the journey, and The Virgin of Guadalupe for the continuity with my Spanish/Mexican ancestors who it seems have also struggled with this particular common human embodied experience of cancer.  


I knew that as news of my diagnosis spread many people in the communities of which I am part would want to send their blessings, prayers, good wishes, and healing love.  I know that those energies will strengthen my body and spirit.  I also know from being a minister for many years and a witch for my whole life, that sometimes along with those good energies, people also accidentally send their own fears and anxieties from their own past experiences with cancer in their own bodies or the bodies of loved ones.  That energy is not as helpful to me.  There are also folk who feed off other people’s drama and my bubble helps deflect that hunger as well.  My deity created protective bubble lets in what is healing and redirects or even transforms what is not.


Several friends have shared that they understand Brigid, Jesus and The Virgin of Guadalupe, but curious why Loki?  My deep fascination with the full range of human experience may be part of why since I was a child I have spent time playing with Loki.  My experience of Loki is of an insatiably curious deity as fascinated by the ever changing kaleidoscopic movement of time and all the beings interacting within it as I am.  My experience of Loki is of a being who stirs up trouble not so much for the sake of making trouble, but out of a deep curiosity of how the other beings impacted will act and react.  It has been delightful to have Loki along on this cancer journey, a kindred being with whom to step back and be amazed by the shifts and changes in my own body as well as the wildly choreographed dance number happening all around me as people move in and out my my inner circle to share love and support and medical care.


With Loki I am exploring what it feels like to have tumors pushing bones and teeth and flesh and nerves and arteries into new configurations there on the right side of my face and neck.  What it feels like to have tumors laying in my lungs changing my very breath.  What it takes to be infinitely creative in order to get food into my mouth held almost completely shut by tumors wrapped around my jaw.  I am fascinated to see which muscles are working extra hard in my cheek and neck as I try to form words or even smile.  Curious to learn what happens to other systems in my body when I use opioids for pain relief. 


Loki is as fascinated as I am by the immunotherapy treatment I am receiving at UCSF in San Francisco.  Unlike traditional chemo and radiation which simply goes in and kills all kinds of cells both cancer and regular healthy cells, immunotherapy stimulates my own immune system to find the cancer cells and put a cap over their receptors so that in effect, they starve to death and then become food for my healthy white blood cells.  It turns out that cancer cells come and go in all healthy humans and when they show up, our own immune system takes care of them, unless our immune system goes off line like mine did in my forties, then when the cancer begins to multiply there is nothing to keep it in check. 


So here I am in this slower pace of embodied cancer time where I am present in each moment and aware of the incredible amount of healing work happening in all my systems and on a deep cellular level.  I have always been, and will continue to be, fascinated with embodiment, even this particular all too common experience of human embodiment called cancer.  Blessings on all our embodied selves, blessings on the full range of human embodied experience.  Blessings on your full range of human embodied experience.

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Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert Saturday, 25 November 2017

    I am impressed with your approach and feel gratitude for your courageous example and sharing of your process. I send my healing prayers as well, and my best wishes for a successful healing process. Blessed Be, Tasha

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 25 November 2017

    Thank you so much Tasha, I receive those healing prayers and energy with gratitude. Blessings on your embodied experience.

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