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Living With Cancer as the Wheel of the Year Turns

For witches and non witches who actually farm and work the land, the turning of the Wheel of the Year and the waxing and waning of The Moon inform so many daily decisions of when to let The Earth rest, when to prepare it for new growing, when to plant, when to tend, when to harvest and back to when to rest.  For those of us who are not farmers we can still remember there are times and seasons for doing all the different magic we do - and yet sometimes even we witches get so caught up in the details and frenzy of life we forget the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of The Moon give us extra power in our magic if we follow their flow.


I have been thinking about my journey with cancer and realizing how the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of La Luna have brought me deep gifts as I flow through this all too common but powerful human experience.


This cancer, my cancer is for me part of the flow of seasons and cycles that I stepped into when I was born and will end for me when I die.  


This cancer began around Samhain of 2016 before I even knew there was cancer growing in my body - not a surprise, Samhain is a time of death and unbeknownst to me it was a dying of what had come before - I was diagnosed much later, actually on Lammas of 2017 by then what had begun growing in my face and neck had metastasized into my lungs and was stage four squamous cell carcinoma. Lammas is a time of harvest, this was a hard harvest and yet even in the midst of that there was abundance as medical folk came into my life and my team of mysterious ones rose to greet me and hold me:  The Virgin of Guadalupe, the Compassionate Christ, the Trickster god Loki, Brigid of the Forge, my ancestors and La Luna waxing and waning, bringing in healing medicine, releasing fear and pain and anxiety.  They formed a bubble around letting in the blessings and love, prayers and power from people far and wide, yet also forming a barrier so that the fear and anxiety that often accompanies cancer from others hit the bubble and slid to the ground to be transformed and composted.  Slowly I shared the diagnosis and found myself surrounded by beloveds who would care for me whatever the harvest.  There were tests and and more tests and treatment plans in place as Mabon moved toward Samhain.  My very first infusion was on the Full Moon of October, the Blood Moon.


At first the immunotherapy I was on worked well shrinking the tumors in my lungs and killing off cancer cells in my face and neck. I was on a every two weeks schedule so as La Luna waxed and waned I had the powerful sense that infusions during waxing were bringing in healing medicine, and during waning helping clear out the dead cells.  Not long after Yule the dead cells became infected and there I was no longer flowing with the seasons but in the midst of a crisis while my medical team worked to make sure I didn’t step off The Wheel at that point and I spent a week in the hospital.  I was still here but it became clear I was not getting the calories I needed to sustain my life and so on Ostara of 2018 I was back in the hospital having a feeding tube put in my stomach.  Ostara that time of balance of preparing the soil and planning for a new growing season to feed and sustain us.  But things went awry in those plans - we were using the wrong formula it turns out and so I was again hospitalized and that first night in the ER I could have easily stepped out of this life.  I remember moments of floating in space in the vast beautiful rich velvety darkness feeling held, loved, knowing that whatever happened would be fine - I waited for my ancestors to come for me, they didn’t, and as my body received hydration and medication I once again felt present in this life.


I emerged after another week in the hospital at Beltane.  The perfect time to emerge.  Beltane that time of dancing around the Maypole winding ribbons symbolizing the ancient understanding of life and sexuality bringing forth life. In my Reclaiming witch tradition we acknowledge that aspect and so much more. And so as I emerged from what could have killed me (severe dehydration and not enough calories in to sustain my life) this Beltane reminded me about the powerful life force flowing through everything. The same power that brings new life to the land after a fire or other natural or human caused disaster that interrupts life. This Beltane for me was about dancing those ribbons in my body, through the amazing medical community who tended me and the passion of family of blood and choice who surrounded me, and all of you who added energy, thoughts, prayers, and love. This Beltane I was blessed beyond measure by the power of life and love.  So I rejoiced and sent blessings to everyone and their beloveds this Beltane whether they were lovers, friends, children or a passion for work and/or creativity bringing forth art or the simplest bits of work or play that keeps life juicy.


And here I am moving toward Litha, the Summer Solstice.  It feels like I am getting stronger - the treatment plan is transforming growing into something new as The Sun begins the journey away I am hoping that power of leaving will take with it more of the cancer.  I am hopeful but also understand that many things can take us away from this life in a heartbeat.


And so there it is my life turning with The Wheel, waxing and waning with La Luna, just as all things do whether we notice or not, your life my life all life.  Blessings on you as you live The Wheel, the cycles, the ancient and mysterious magic.

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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.


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 05 May 2018

    Dear Lizann - I have been following all your blogs since your first encounter with the cancer, but did not wish to impose empty platitudes, or even sincere empathy, on your pain and reduced, much-needed energy. I have been amazed by your attitude and inspired by your strength. This entry fills me with such gladness. I have always appreciated your writing, which has now been elevated to the level of Master Teaching. Thank you for continuing to share your journey.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 05 May 2018

    Dear Ted - thank you so much for your kind and generous words.

  • Arlene
    Arlene Saturday, 05 May 2018

    Dear one, I never have words for your wonderful writing...instead, I offer a song:
    We are the boat, we are the sea...I sail in you, you sail in me. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Saturday, 05 May 2018

    Dear Arlene - thank you for that - what a beautiful gift that song is.

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Saturday, 05 May 2018

    Lizann shall be well, Lizann shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Sunday, 06 May 2018

    Thank you Carol!

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 10 May 2018

    You never cease to amaze me with your purity, clarity, and consciousness in your writing. Since the beginning of this journey with cancer, I now have to add simple awe at your courage and openness in sharing with all of us.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 10 May 2018

    Thank you Anne - it feels good to be able to write when I surface - it's been such an interesting experience going in and out of being able to concentrate and use those left brain skills and then the times when I'm really floating in right brain land and couldn't but two coherent sentences together if I wanted - I like that I have the space and freedom to go back and forth - and an outlet for writing when I can. It's been really helpful to me to use the writing to do the reflection.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 10 May 2018

    So happy to be of service!

  • Sedna
    Sedna Thursday, 10 May 2018

    I have never read your blog before until this post, and, as I read, your experience provided me with an entirely new way for me to conceptualize the cancer journey. I am astonished by its teaching, its speaking into all my dark, fearful corners. Lizann, you are gracious and have modeled courage for me on one of my most feared topics, showing me such greater possibilities beyond my obviously limited thinking. Bless you, always, and thank you for the teaching. I look forward to reading more about your recovery. Love, Sedna

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 10 May 2018

    Thank you SednaQ

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 10 May 2018

    Thank you Sedna. It has been a powerful experience for me. Blessings on your body and being in this world.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 29 May 2018

    This is Anne Newkirk Niven,
    I have to wait another hour for my system admin to be available, so I can post this directly to Lizann's blog. The message below is the last one Lizann posted to her Facebook page. She died on Sunday, May 27, at around 7 a.m.

    May 20, 2018

    This is Lizann - in a moment of lucidity from the morphine - I have not crossed yet but feel it will be soon. My dear beloved Jeff Spencer will take over my FB and post as soon as he can depending on the time of day and circumstances - it could be hours, days, maybe weeks. I am floating in and out in a constant state of bliss. Again, for me this has not been a battle, I am not losing anything I am simply moving toward the end of what for me has been an amazing life filled with love, adventure, joy, challenge and so much life. Blessings my loves wherever you are on your journey. In my christian tradition today is Pentecost which in our story is the day the earthly energy of the human Jesus transitions into the Cosmic Christ it is a day of deep divine love. May you feel deep divine love this day and all days.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 29 May 2018

    Thank you, Anne, for letting us know. May all Blessed Be. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

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