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Traveling Light

Walking the Cancer Path

William Ward

240 pp.  
6" x 9"

Lindisfarne Books


Published:  May 2008


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!”

  • “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; founder of the Cancer Support Program at Wainwright House, Rye, NY; former director of The Center for Health in Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York; Retreat Group Leader, Cancer Help Program at Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts, Washington, DC

Reviews & Endorsements:

By Neill Reilly

William Ward has written a personal account of his encounter with brain cancer. By the skill of his craft, he has turned the personal into the universal. Since William has spent nearly thirty years as a Waldorf teacher at the Hawthorne Valley School in Harlemville, New York, he approaches cancer as a teacher would. As a teacher, he is open to learning vital life lessons from cancer. William also battles cancer, as a warrior would defend himself against an enemy that is trying to kill him. His out-of-body experience during surgery included a spiritual epiphany. That experience is the essence of William’s journey and survival. After his brain surgery he retained an indelible mark on his soul—he had been saved for a reason. William received the grace to live and tell his story. All his readers are the beneficiaries of that graceful year he had to write his story.

Sixty to eighty percent of cancer patients with William’s type of brain cancer die within a year. A sobering reality, from which he fully understood that life, each second of it, is truly precious—precious not in a delicate manner, but precious as in the lifeblood that streams from our hearts to maintain life in all our cells. His many questions revolve around the following perspective. How can I learn from this tragic situation? What distinguishes William is his commonsensical spiritual approach, his childlike wonder, and his boundless good humor. He has stared death in the face and has been scared and reborn.

The experience is not just for William. It is for all of us and centered on how we view ourselves. Are we just materialistic beings or is humankind more then a conglomerate of cells, atoms, wishes, and needs? William experienced spiritual fullness in his surgery. In this epiphany, William also encountered what he calls “The Children of the Future.” These children desperately want to be born and educated in Waldorf schools so that they can add their gifts and love to a very needy earth. In a certain sense, we are all Children of the Future—incarnated spiritual beings who came to Earth to share love.

When you read how William relates his journey, you realize you are in the midst of a master storyteller. William puts the reader in media res, but the place he puts you in is the middle of his consciousness. From this vantage point, you meet Andy, his lovely dedicated wife, his daughters, and dozens of human angelic beings who bear his cross with him. William is not alone; in fact, the cancer has surrounded him with love! He is in a cocoon of faith healers who refuse to let him go gently into the night; instead, he goes gently into the light.

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. In William’s words depicting his life, you can sense his deep connection with Rudolf Steiner’s path of reverence from How to Know Higher Worlds. You can feel the importance of spiritual activity from The Philosophy of Freedom. William has fought the good fight; he has run his race; he has kept the faith.

Teachers, mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, those who are ill, and those who support the sick should read this book. In other words, everyone should take this journey with William. It is a cathartic experience that will transform the reader by witnessing William’s rebirth. By reading Traveling Light, the reader will be filled with Love, Light, and Life!

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