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Foundations of Healing: "The Will to Live"

robinvan's picture
Posts: 1014
Joined: May 2007

In "The Mapmakers Wife", Robert Whitaker tells the inspiring story of an 18th century Peruvian woman who makes a remarkable journey from the Andes Mountains down the Amazon River to be reunited with her belved husband Jean. Isabel Godin left her home in 1770 with a large party which included her brothers, a nephew, and a fair complement of slaves, servants, guides, and mules. Shortly into the journey things go terribly wrong and she finds herself alone and lost in the jungle of the upper Amazon. Isabel endured over 6 weeks of wandering in the jungle. During this time she watched her brothers and nephew die of starvation and was beset by plagues of ants, mosquitoes, botflies, and other nasty insects. Against all odds Isabel was found, survived, recovered, and completed her journey.
In reflecting on Isabel's ordeal and remarkable survival Whitaker states that what seems to count most in survival is "an inner psychological strength nurtured by purpose, hope, and spiritual beliefs". He also observes that Isabel was "experienced in a humble act practiced by nearly all survivors... prayer". For Isabel the commitment to be reunited with Jean, and the practice of prayer as a means to escape her circumstances and to connect her with God, helped her to survive while others more physically robust perished.
Isabel's story says a lot about the nature of survival. Whatever the nature of our ordeals, whatever the cause of our wounds, our survival depends at least as much on our spiritual resources as it does on our physical capacity. The "will to live", the gifts of love, hope, strength, and courage, and the grace to "let go and let be" are ultimately matters of the soul and spirit.
May you be blessed with these gifts and graces on your journey.
"May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live." Robert A. Heinlein

kerry's picture
Posts: 1317
Joined: Jan 2003



alta29's picture
Posts: 435
Joined: Mar 2005

I agree 100 %...you just have to believe...Meditate, visualize and pray. God gave us that gift...
Amen to that..

usakat's picture
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Awesome post, Rob!

During a Christmas family vacation in Ixtapa, Mexico, while recovering from a brutal round of chemo-rad for her fourth battle with stage four cancer, my Mom said to me that she was living with cancer, not dying from it. She was physically ravaged from two years of surgeries and treatments, and doctors said that Christmas would probably be her last. My brothers and I were devastated, but Mom never stopped living. She refused to succumb to her bitter circumstances, but instead found joy and purpose in living, just like the character Isabel you mention.

That family vacation in Mexico was Christmas of 2004, and now more than two years later, Mom is doing very well. She is cancer free and traveling the world, including a recent trip to the Amazon, where she went white water rafting, crossed rope bridges suspended from tree-tops, and hiked mountains.

When I was diagnosed with my cancer all I had to do was model after my Mom. I never allowed myself a moment to ask, "why me?" While cancer did put me in touch with my own mortality, and even though there were times that I was as sick and as weak as I had ever been, just like Mom I choose to live my life happily, joyfully, and with hope. I was also confident in the grace of God, no matter what was happening at any given time.

Now I live everyday grateful for my cancer experience. It made me reevaluate what is important in life, it made me stop and think about who I want to be and how I want to live the rest of my life. And most importantly, if it were not for my cancer I never would have met the most wonderful man I have ever known - my husband, Bob, whom I met here at CSN.

Your words about tapping into one's spiritual resources, will, and God given gifts are truly inspirational. Absolutely beautiful.

Thank you for your post, Rob. It's a pleasure to "meet" you.

Best Regards,

robinvan's picture
Posts: 1014
Joined: May 2007

Hi Katie,
We are so blessed to be surrounded by so many who have walked this journey with life-giving grace and courage. After I was diagnosed, lying on my hopsital bed after the colon resection, knowing my nodes and liver were affected, I was visited by a friend who sat by my bed and said... "10 years ago I was lying where you were. Colon Cancer stage 4. He talked about his liver resection, his chemo, reike and healing touch sessions... he gave me hope. We need these flesh and blood mentors and heroes. They walk with us, show us the way, and sustain us on the journey.
That's why these groups are so good. I'm glad to have found this site.

TTFN... Rob

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