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Agnes was a cancer survivor – no, Agnes IS a cancer survivor. The semi-retired life-skills coach is still with us, still seeing clients (though not as many) and still volunteering at the food bank when she can. And she can’t wait to begin taking tai chi classes. To what does she attribute her positive attitude and optimistic outlook? The idea that the dis-ease she underwent was not hers; in fact, she was suffering for someone else.

During our Zoom session, I kept visualizing the symbolic image that Agnes had undergone a trial by fire, with someone else watching from the sidelines. Trying to make sense of that impression, I asked Agnes if she understood anything about what I was saying.

“Yes,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that what I was experiencing was redemptive suffering.”

Redemptive suffering, Agnes explained, is the belief that one takes on the suffering of another individual to help that person better cope with their life traumas. Though it is primarily a Christian belief – i.e., Jesus taking on humanity’s suffering – the concept can apply to anyone. Such as, in this case, Agnes – who is Jewish.

“When doctors found the small lump in my breast, I couldn’t understand why it was there,” Agnes said. “I live a very healthy lifestyle: I don’t smoke, don’t drink, never did drugs, sleep well. And I’m a vegetarian. I was mystified.”
Meditating on her diagnosis, Agnes had an epiphany – the cancer wasn’t hers. The rogue cell growth was foreign to her body and soul. She couldn’t accept the fact of its existence – even though a mammogram had shown otherwise. That’s when she realized she was carrying the cancer for someone else. Someone who, perhaps, wasn’t strong enough to undergo this medical affliction.

“Deep down, I’m a strong person,” she said, defiantly thrusting her chin forward. “I’m a survivor. I’ve been through homelessness, a miscarriage, and a couple other bumps on the road, and I’ve toughed them all out.” Then she laughed. “I’m not saying surgery and 21 days of radiation was a piece of cake, but once I realized I was carrying someone else’s burden, I knew I was strong enough to get through it.”

I found the idea of redemptive suffering both unique and mystifying. With the world being so hectic and often sorrow-plagued, and our lives often so complicated and difficult, why would Agnes choose to take on such a difficult burden?

I asked Agnes, “Did you elect to take on that suffering, or was it thrust upon you?”

She was quiet for several moments. Her eyes had the inward-looking appearance, and I wondered how she was wrestling with my question.

“I don’t think I can answer that,” she finally said. “Perhaps it was part of my karma, or part of my contract when I agreed to incarnate on Earth. Perhaps it’s really just a coping mechanism on my part. But I truly believe there is a deeper meaning to what I underwent. Yet I truly feel I eased someone’s burden.”

While she had been speaking, I received the impression of a stadium filled with people, with everyone standing and cheering. When Agnes, finished, I passed that mental image on to her.

She smiled. “I may never know in this lifetime who I helped,” she said, then shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll know more when it’s time for me to go home.”

Though I’m not a medical intuitive – I don’t make psychic diagnoses or prescribe curatives – spirit urged me to tell Agnes she should continue practicing a healthy lifestyle and avoid eating processed sweets and excess carbs, which the body converts into sugar. Sugar feeds cancer – that bit of information is a proven medical truth I learned after a cancer scare in my own family.

I passed other personal information from spirit to Agnes, and after our session I thought about what Agnes had said. I meditated that afternoon on redemptive suffering and asked spirit why would anyone assume the anguish of a stranger? The simple thought I received: A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met.

If you have any questions or comments on this subject or on any other spiritual matter, feel free to contact me through this website. And please visit me again!

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