Cancer: Breaking Open


"Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kindgdom of the well and in the kindgdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place." ~ Susan Sontag

Like the story of so many individual experiences with cancer and transformation, the myth of Inanna is a tale which begins with insidious loss.

The myth of Inanna, begins with the Sumerian goddess as she learns that a sister goddess is suffering in the underworld, trapped and in need of help. Inanna resolves to descend into the underworld to help her friend.


Inanna is queen of heaven and earth, she is strong, gracious, powerful, prideful, brilliant and beautiful. However, she truly has no "heart knowledge", no lived experience with the many losses necessary to walk the underworld. She has heard that the journey to the underworld is a perilous challenge, but she imagines she's up to it- after all, she is a Goddess. She wants to keep everything basically "the same" while she traverses the underworld. She's quite competent; she's handled many many challenges before. She plans to get done what needs to get done and be back as soon as possible.

Innana begins her descent and before long she is arrives at the first gate to the underworld. The gate is dark and ominous, towering seven feet above Innana's head.  At the first gate also stands a gatekeeper, and he asks Inanna first to remove the red, blue, green and purple jeweled headdress she proudly dons in order for her to pass beyond his gate. Inanna is slightly reluctant to say the least. (she thinks, "Is this really necessary?")... She complies with his request, removes her headdress and continues through the gate.

She travels a bit further down the path and reaches another gate. This gatekeeper asks Inanna to remove the magnificent necklace embracing her long neck. Inanna calmly removes her necklace for the gatekeeper and is allowed to pass through the gate. She continues down the path and before long, she reaches a third gate. The third gatekeeper requests her ornate breastplate for passage; this breastplate is beautifully textured in gold beaten brass.  Inanna loves it and is deeply attached to it, but she acquiesces. She gives up yet another piece of power, another piece of what she believes to be her "self", and proceeds further into the underworld. The path continues to get darker; it becomes more cool and damp. She arrives at a fourth gate and here she removes her girdle.

These losses continue for a total of seven gates; at each one Inanna leaves another symbol of her "upperworld" power behind.

She finally enters the heart of the underworld stripped of most everything that defined her.

She hovers close to the ground, hunched over, seemingly broken...

Cancer is a similar passage. One is asked over and over again to leave behind large pieces of self.

This is where awakening ensues and the inner fire is stoked again for life!

Unencumbered by things and ideas once held as truths, one begins, often for the first time, to ask questions about what is truly real. THIS is where transformation begins.

This questioning breaks us. It breaks us O P E N.

A shift in perspective and understanding becomes possible.

Re-visioning becomes possible.

We derive an eye for gratitude and the simple beauty of being alive.

Where the losses have left holes we plant our new knowledge of truth, meaning, love and connection. (post-traumatic growth to use a psych term).

Healing is a beautiful process to witness.

And it's a beautiful life to live.

Healing is a well lived life my friend.

So if you're entering the underworld, losing hair, dignity and pride. I encourage you to meet it with acceptance, curiosity and embrace your new won humility. You're right where you need to be. The process has begun...but you must O P E N to it. Be willing to let yourself be transformed. Be willing to say "I don't know". Be willing to try new things. Be willing to learn. And, Be willing to let go.

B R E A K  O P E N

Let the transformation begin