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Illness as Initiation: an Unlikely Heroine's Journey by Jann McGuire, D.Min

Illness as Initiation: an Unlikely Heroine's Journey

by Jann McGuire, D.Min

162 pages
Spiritual practices, community support augment medicine to heal cancer.

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Category: Health:Medicine:Alternative Medicine
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About the Book
Illness as Initiation: An Unlikely Heroine's Journey is a memoir of the author's passage to health from Stage III non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999-2000. Confronted with this diagnosis and told to get her affairs in order, Jann McGuire marshals medical, community and spiritual resources to ensure her wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

On the most personal level, Dr. McGuire shares her solitary spiritual practices. Her poetry, with which each chapter begins, opens a window into her mind and life's journey. Her Christian background is evident, but so is her eclectic approach to spirituality. In addition to prayer, meditation, journal writing and dream work, she incorporates Buddhist, Hindu and indigenous pagan practices, planning her life by the phases of the moon and seeking insights from the ancient symbols of the tarot and rune stones.

McGuire's family, her husband Fred, four adult children and their families, provide encouragement and support for this journey. The epilepsy suffered by Suzanne, Jann and Fred's oldest child and only daughter, is the most difficult issue of Jann's life. Several hypnotherapy sessions recounted in the book have to do with healing family patterns.

Jann is working on a doctorate in theology and has studied energy healing and Native American spirituality for several years. The small community of local friends that grew around these interests gather to support her. They teach that the foundation of any healing is the petitioner's humble request for it. Jann makes such a request, and these friends respond with many forms of help, from bringing food when she is ill to going with her to medical appointments. They offer regular healing sessions to augment chemotherapy and to quickly drain its resulting toxins from her system.

Fred and Jann depend on this group for community worship. The story recounts a vision quest and other ceremonies that feed their spiritual life. When chemotherapy brings the loss of her hair, Jann gathers some of these friends to ritualize this emotional event.

Jann and Fred have a large, scattered but close-knit e-mail community with whom they worked on church and community renewal in the seventies. After Jann requests prayers on her behalf, this group is a reliable source of support and encouragement. An annual retreat with twelve women from this community is a major source of comfort and joy for Jann's journey of healing.

On the day of Jann's last chemotherapy treatment, Fred falls and suffers a cerebral hemorrhage. Much of the book deals with how Jann relates to the doctors and other health care professionals who treat symptoms of the couples' illnesses, but don't always focus on them as human beings. Fred's illness challenges Jann in ways that her own did not. Their children and friends again support the couple toward healing as they struggle to come to terms with their changed lives.

This is the story of a difficult passage, filled with practical ways to maintain hope at such a time.



About the Author
Jann McGuire, besides writing, practices massage, water shiatsu and bioenergetics. She serves the Board of Sequoia Center for Holistic Studies, which supports nature and cultural conservation in Mexico and sponsors Canyon-Paradise Tours of the Sierra Tarahumara. She cares for her mother, and is devoted to her three sons' families.



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