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The Spirituality of Cancer

by Judith C. Dambowic

At age 58, I was working as a Physical Therapist/Feldenkrais practitioner at a Kaiser pain management clinic when I figured out the swelling in my eye was from a tumor in my right sinus cavity. I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. There was so much I didn’t understand as a person thrust into the ‘Cancer Cafe’ for the first time.

I wanted to find an oncologist to work with, someone I thought would help guide me to make these life/death treatment choices. I didn’t yet understand that there are NO right answers, only best practice guidelines that are essentially based on data driven from trials that the pharmaceutical companies were interested in funding. I searched for my intuition, but fear added cloudiness. So much challenge for Chaya (my partner) and I.

These are some of the deep spiritual questions that were unearthed:

– what is this day for?

– can I be vulnerable, afraid and still be present for treatment?

– as a lifetime caregiver, how can I accept help from others?

– what tools are available for making life and death decisions?

– is fighting my only choice?

– how do I not feel shame around the power imbalance with my doctors?

– what might be helpful things to say and do when someone has catastrophic news?

– how do I physically stay connected to others when I am chronically immune compromised? Simple colds can cause me life threatening infections.

With really no theater background, somehow I ended up in solo performance writing classes.  Performing short pieces of my journey gave me the opportunity to continue teaching, which is such a strong part of my nature. Developing a show that asked these type of spiritual questions and demonstrated the complexities of the answers became my way to speak not only for myself but hopefully for many others. With storytelling and theater, I am able to share feelings and choices that may not be mainstream responses.

Performing builds my resilience. The Berkeley Marsh has granted me a 3 week run in March. Please come out to see this polished show that blends humor and clarity:

“Welcome To the Cancer Cafe”. Sundays at 2 PM; March 8th, 15th and 22nd. Each show will be a fundraiser for a local cancer organization. See the link below for more details. Ticket information at:

Hope to see you there!!


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