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Traveling Light

Walking the Cancer Path

May 2008
More details
  • Publisher
    Lindisfarne Books
  • Published
    15th May 2008
  • ISBN 9781584200611
  • Language English
  • Pages 240 pp.
  • Size 6" x 9"

“My life changed dramatically, drastically, and irrevocably on November 17, 2005. That was my death day and re-birthday. The external event was surgical removal of a glioblastoma multiforme tumor phase iv from the left occipital–parietal lobe of my cranium. Though I was unconscious during surgery, what I experienced was transcendent, like being turned inside out and hovering in timelessness, between this world and the life after life, and returning to here and now — changed forever. What sounds like a cliché describes literally what I felt.” (from the foreword)

This generous, courageous, and wise book offers a selfless glimpse behind the curtain of a journey with cancer, from shock to inner rebirth and the gradual discovery of light in the darkness

William Ward has written a personal account of his life following a fateful diagnosis of a brain tumor: gliablastoma multiforme Phase IV cancer. With no trace of self-pity and rising above sentimentality, he describes the landscape of his outer path through hospitals, surgeons, pain, powerful drugs, and the support of family, friends, and community. At the same time, with fearless honesty he invites the reader to accompany him on the inner path of inevitable regrets, self-examination, fears, and hopes in the face of a potentially terminal illness.

Until it happens to us, we can never know for sure how we would respond as individuals to a catastrophic event in our lives, but by telling the most personal of all stories, William Ward shows us a way forward that goes well beyond our personal differences. With compassion and humor, Ward bears witness to the presence of living light in the darkest of human experiences, demonstrating how, if we face it, the Dark Night of the Soul necessarily leads to awaking in the light of a new dawn.

Fierce hope shines through the final words of Traveling Light:

"As we part, here at the edge of Death Valley, I feel like an old prospector handing over a weather-stained chart. “You take this map, sonny. Where I’m goin’ I won’t be needin’ it no more. But while you’re here on the earthly plane, I want you to know there is water, the water of life, deep down, right here. Yonder, atop Solomon’s knob, is the Mother Lode—pay dirt, pure gold, the sun’s tears. The way up is steep. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Up on top you can see forever. Goodbye, God bless, and good luck!”

Cover Image by Claire Ward Miesmer

“This book has many levels and perspectives, from the serious to the comic. At its heart, it is a Michaelic book. How do I encounter the Christ through cancer? How do I learn from my mortal enemy? How do I transform evil into good? Cancer can be seen as another instance of materialism gone amuck—endless, meaningless growth. This is the modern encounter with Ahriman. Cancer could be seen as ahrimanic materialism. Cancer can break the spirit. How William brings meaning to ‘meaninglessness’ is beyond art. It is in the acquired balance of a spiritual life filled with reverence and joy.”

Neill Reilly, author of Look at What We Can Become Portraits of Five Michaelic Individuals

“Among the many personal accounts of the cancer experience that have been published, I have read none more honestly revealing or more beautiful than William Ward's Traveling Light. To read his compelling and poetic account is to meet someone you would want to know and spend serious time with. Ward’s charm is not conventional; he makes no effort to captivate. He is simply an appealing, candid, accomplished person whose journal of navigation through the experience of serious cancer is a rare story of love, a unique kind of faith, and a reverence for the committed life. Even if Ward were not dealing with cancer, he would be clearly one of the most companionable, genuine human beings you would ever encounter.” 

Richard Grossman, psychotherapist, author,The Tao of Emerson

“For William Ward, everything is grist for the mill when it comes to being a fully present participant in his cancer journey: premonitions, epiphanies, synchronicities, treatments, past history coming around again, moments of high hilarity, and deep, quiet, pure thankfulness for all of life—not only for what it has brought him, but for the unknowns it’s cooking up right now...he shows how one can travel lightly in the light.”

Claire Blatchford, author, Turning and Experiences with the Dying and the Dead

William Ward

William Ward, a native of Michigan, majored in English literature as an undergraduate at Columbia University before studying elementary education at the Waldorf Institute of Adelphi University, where he received a master's degree. William was a Waldorf class teacher for twenty-five years at Hawthorne Valley School in Harlemville, New York, from 1976 until 2005. He had taken three full classes from grades 1 to 8 and was in the fourth grade with his fourth class when he retired to deal with the diagnosis of a brain tumor. A lover of the theater, William wrote numerous class plays and festival presentations and collaborated in all-school musical productions. He crossed the threshold October 5, 2008, at the age of sixty-one.