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Excerpted from Cancer as a Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan. Copyright 1994 by Lawrence LeShan. Excerpted by permission of Plume, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"That night Maria called a family conference and announced (apparently in no uncertain terms) that it was her turn now."

Lawrence LeShan, Cancer as a Turning Point, Part 3

I would be leaving London in a few days and I have never been very good working over the telephone or by mail. The philosopher and spiritual leader Edgar Jackson has pointed out that in some situations, the careful man is only a short step away from the paltry man. I told Maria the story of the woman who was sunbathing nude. A lovely chickadee flew down and perched on her ankle. She smiled lovingly at it. Then a great orange-and-black butterfly alighted on her knee. Again she smiled warmly. A magnificent dragonfly with its iridescent wings settled on her shoulder. It also received her welcoming smile, as did a beautiful goldfinch that came down and perched on her toes. Then a mosquito came down, settled on her breast, and bit her. She looked at it and said, "All right. Everybody off!"

At the punchline, Maria laughed much harder than the joke deserved. Then she sat apparently thinking very intently for several minutes. Finally she looked at me and an impish and devilish grin spread across her face. "Do you think I really could?" she asked.

She was as ready for action as a tomcat with its tail up. She had only needed a direction and a trigger. I had provided that direction in my lecture, and our discussion was the trigger. It was a pleasure to watch her move. I had heard of the "fiery, tempestuous Brazilian personality," before but had never expected to see the stereotype in full bloom.

That night Maria called a family conference and announced (apparently in no uncertain terms) that it was her turn now. Changes would have to be made as she could no longer afford to support her entire family. If she died they were all on their own anyway, so they might as well all take a desperate and final chance to help her immune system come to the aid of the chemotherapy.

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