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Welcome to the Camino de Cancer

By David Giuliano

There are all manner of caminos. The most familiar is the Camino de Santiago. It begins in France and, by various routes, leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, where the remains of St. James are reputed to be buried. People walk it for all sorts of reasons. Some people go for the exercise and physical challenge. Others go looking for community among fellow travellers. Still, others seek healing, wisdom or spiritual meaning.

There are many pilgrimage destinations: Mecca, Machu Picchuto, Lourdes and Graceland, to name just a few. Camino de means simply  “the way” or “the road.” Not all caminos are geographical, though. Some are made almost invisibly in our inner lives.

Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest and founder of the Centre for Creation Spirituality, described four paths or ways of the spiritual journey. The Via Positiva is the way of ecstasy, joy and delight.  The Via Creativa is the way of creativity and co-creation. The Via Transformativa is the way of struggle for justice, healing and compassion. And the Via Negativa — the way of darkness, chaos, suffering, silence, and letting go and letting be.

The Via Negativa — that sort of camino — is rarely chosen or even welcome. It comes upon us, abducts us, and we choose to walk and listen — or not. I have had cancer on and off, for more than 20 years. Right now, my cancer is, as they say, “in remission,” and I am feeling strong, healthy and happy (Read Giuliano's recent interview with Healthy Debate). But it has been both the source of suffering and a harsh teacher of wisdom. It has been unwelcome, and it has been a blessing. It comes banging on the door of my soul like a hostile stranger — an unwelcome guest. I have tried to redeem its malignant presence by walking with and by writing about this stranger. I have gained some life, wonder, wisdom and laughter along The Way. Perhaps you — or someone you love — are walking a similar path with this shadow stranger. Perhaps, we can walk together a ways.

Welcome to the Via Negativa. Welcome to the “Camino de Cancer.

David Giuliano is the former moderator of The United Church of Canada, an award-winning writer and author of "Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God." He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Marathon, Ont.
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