Photo Credit: Courtesy of the author
‘Sweetening the Waters of Marah,’ painting by Yoram Raanan, 2019, acrylic on canvas

How could this be? Can this really be happening? I eat healthy and mostly organic, I exercise, I meditate. I even teach meditation. But now I am seeing the results of the biopsy: carcinoma. Cancer! Shock. Disbelief. Fear.

Going to God

As I slowly regain my composure, I realize that the first thing I need to do is go to God.


I begin praying for healing and guidance, for directions to the right doctors and healers, and for angels to accompany me on the way.

A friend sets up a Tehillim (Psalms) group to pray for me. I have seen it said many times that people who are prayed for heal better. It is true! I feel this viscerally in my body, being supported and held in a circle of love and prayer.

I need to let go of the word “cancer” because of the fear attached to it. Renaming as “unwelcome guests” the cells in my breast that have gone astray helps to relate to them. I begin to befriend my unwelcome guests, to look at them, embrace them, send them love, forgive them and release them, breathe and visualize them away. I visualize them dissolving and leaving my chest.

Finding treatment

There is a wealth of information on both conventional and alternative treatments. Researching which route to take could become a full-time job. It is overwhelming. On the Internet I hear neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, say that it is not your genes that determine your destiny, but, rather, the environment in which your genes live. “Change the environment, and you can change your genes.” I notice that when I feel anxious, I am able to change my environment by taking slow conscious breaths.

My friend lends me some books about cancer. I open the first book – Square One: Healing Cancer, by Chris Wark – to the first page and find these words: “The very first thing I tell every cancer patient – and that you need to know – is this: Cancer is a Divine tap on the shoulder… and there is a message attached to the tap on the shoulder.”

I turn within to hear the Divine tap. I let my shoulders relax. I breathe out stress and tension, breathe in healing light. I feel my body relaxing and turn my gaze inward.

What is God telling me?

In a consultation with a doctor of integrative medicine, we speak about changing genes by strengthening the immune system through food, supplements and exercise; but he tells me the most important thing, especially in preparing for my upcoming surgery, is mind over body. He suggests a breathing technique coupled with visualization, to be practiced many times a day. Life becomes a marathon of working on myself physically, psychologically and spiritually. I realize I need to become my own healer.

Science is now showing that positive thoughts and feelings activate areas of the brain that create healing. Our beliefs change the way our genes work! However, in order to change our beliefs, we need to reprogram the subconscious mind, the part of our mind where our beliefs live.

I begin repeating statements of belief many times a day. I say out loud: “I believe that God is my healer and He is preparing my healing and the healing of everyone who needs it.” I put my hands on my heart and imagine the energy of the words entering every cell in my body.

One of the most important aspects of healing is to keep the mind and body in a parasympathetic state – and that is what meditation does. When I begin meditating, I follow the Baal Shem Tov’s instructions (Amud Hatefila 57) to imagine being surrounded by light on all sides, to feel the light and imagine being hidden within it. This is a simple but powerful tool to quiet the mind and to connect to the still small voice of inner guidance, to God. To listen. Says the Alshich, “Contemplation of things Divine causes Divine spirit to descend.”

“ …listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes…, for I am God who heals you.” This verse appears in the book of Exodus (15:26), three days after crossing the sea. The thirsty people arrive at water, but the water is bitter, undrinkable. They complain against Moses, and Moses cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, through which, when he had cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet (Ex. 15:23-25).

What was this “tree” that Moses cast into the water? Some say it was olive wood, perhaps because the olive, like the water of Marah, is bitter at first. The transmutation of olives into oil symbolizes wisdom and faith through which the bitter is transformed, even by bitterness itself, into sweet.

THREE MONTHS after the diagnosis, my “unwelcome guests” are surgically removed, leaving my chest feeling crushed and painful. I keep thinking of the olives being crushed to produce the oil.

How can I transform this bitter into sweet?

I have the choice of seeing this as a bitter disaster or being grateful that my life was spared. Gratitude is one of the strongest agents of healing and transformation that I cast many times a day into the bitterness: appreciating all the many gifts in my life or just savoring positive moments – the beauty of a sunset, children playing in the garden, pomegranates ripening on the trees.

For many days after surgery, I am in pain but always notice that the pain lessens when I am practicing gratitude.

As I contemplate the visual image of Sweetening the Waters of Marah (on this page), I notice a magical light flickering through the trees, illuminating the deep blues and rich wine-colored water. The vertical red streaks could perhaps be tree trunks, or the wood thrown in the waters, or the judgments being sweetened. As the blues intermingle with purples, the contrast between dark and light areas becomes more luminous, casting reflections of impending hope. I imagine and hope for a stream of blessings of health, success and salvation, for myself and others.

I feel prompted to share insights I am gleaning.

A friend asks me, “Have you always been so courageous?” “Courageous?” I ask. She tells me that her husband, a spiritual leader in his community, never told anyone that he had cancer. I ask myself, “Is cancer a shameful thing to be hidden?”

There is a part of me that wants to hide under the covers, but the feeling of being one small part of a larger community inspires me to share my marathon journey. I believe if this helps even one person, it will be worth it, and everything that happens to us is Divinely decreed. Feeling courageous, I decide to step out of my comfort zone.

{Written by Meira Raanan. Reposted from the Sept. 9, 2022, Jerusalem Post Magazine}


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