IT HAPPENED TO ME: I'm a Jewish Woman Looking to Christianity in Hopes of Healing My Cancer

My kids took it really hard when I said I might want to get baptized to "come clean."
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Holly Reich
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My kids took it really hard when I said I might want to get baptized to "come clean."

I have been reexamining my life and browsing through the Bible lately. It's hard for a Jewish girl to even say the word Jesus out loud, but I've been doing some exploration into the practices of Christianity. 

My family had been somewhat incredulous. Well, actually, they think that I’m going nuts. But truly I have been talking to a lot of spiritual advisors, praying and doing my research and feeling the evidence of spiritual intervention.

However, my kids took it really hard when I said I might want to get baptized to "come clean." 

It had been suggested to me that baptism could be a route to spiritual and physical healing. I have been “dancing” with breast cancer for almost 20 years, and I really feel that I need more evidence of a holy spirit — who or whatever that may be. When I first learned I had breast cancer, my children were three and five; now they are 21 and 24. We’ve all been in this gig for a long time.

So Jenna and Dylan told me on Christmas Eve that they had hired a priest to come to our apartment at 9:30 that night to baptize me in front of our friends and family.

"Wait, I just blew out my hair — I can't do this now!" I protested. "And besides, I want a whole immersion baptism."

"No problem," Jenna replied, "We can do it in the bathtub. They are bringing robes."

I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.

“You know,” I explained, “I really imagined doing this in Sonoma, California, in a hot springs by my friend Anna, an ordained minister.”

And truly, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted it done. So, typical me, I started to tear up.

My kids realized that they had taken it too far and laughed, “Got you!” 

We have a history of jokes in our family, and this was a good one; so good, in fact, that my best friend, Eric, who was there to witness this, called me the next day to ask me out to lunch to discuss our Jewish heritage. But I actually liked this joke because, in a way, they were acknowledging my quest for enlightenment.

With my daughter.

With my daughter.

I grew up in a generation where healing was about curing with crystals, taking workshops, and visiting shamans. I was a dancer and actress in my younger years and became a personal trainer when I moved to NYC. I thought that I knew everything about health. If I were one of those unenlightened people who got cancer, I would go to a sprout farm in Mexico and wipe it out. I had all kinds of notions on what cancer was about, and of course, I would never get it.

Not so. In the last two decades, I have tried everything from being a vegetarian, to prayer circles, to sweat lodges, macrobiotics, and growing my own pot. My breast cancer has a mind of its own. It has returned more times than I can count in the last umpteen years. The last time two years ago it became a MET, meaning it had metastasized to my liver. I am now in another category of cancer vixens called long-term survivors of metastatic cancer.

Cancer takes up a lot of time, especially when you are undergoing research projects that are designed to find new ways of curing it. I’ve been a grateful guinea pig for a few trials in the last couple of years at Sloan Kettering. No matter how sick I got, I was always hopeful and happy to say that I was among a handful of people around the world doing this for cancer research. But truly, the symptoms got so hellish at times that I felt like giving up. When they say "cancer survivor," it truly means surviving. I get it!

I am not a negative person. I opt to be hopeful, fun, and positive. I have a fabulous life as a writer reviewing cars, and I have traveled all over the world testing everything from Land Rovers in Mongolia to Rolls-Royces in Geneva. My glamorous career, my family, and my friends are my lifeline.

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Cancer has been slaying me for way too long. And nothing can stop it.

It seems that prayer — and the Christian form of prayer — has been tracking me over the last year. For instance, at a truck rodeo in Texas last fall, my friends Sue and Donny, two devout believers, asked if I would mind if they prayed for me. We held hands and cried together while they asked Jesus to keep me healthy. Then, when I was in California last month, I had a prayer session with Sue’s advisor, Anna, an ordained minister. She also wanted to do a healing. I tried to talk her out of it over a dinner of fabulous wines and lobster paella. I finally conceded when she noticed that I was holding my stomach. 

“Is it the food?” she asked. 

“No," I answered. "It feels like a nest of snakes is in my belly.”

Anna took two steps back and said, “Whoa! There’s an evil spirit in your body. It’s Satan.” Then she asked, “Will you accept the help of our Lord Jesus to get it out?" 

I replied, "Bring it on!”

Since then, things have started shifting for me in small and very significant ways. First of all, the stomachaches have stopped, and the markers that determine the growth of my cancer have decreased. My doctors say that the new chemo pills are working, and I feel that my faith is helping.

I was resigned to the fact that cancer would always be in my life. Now I can see a possibility that it does not necessarily have to be my fate. That’s a beginning.

I am also feeling more peaceful, simply from reading a spiritual passage every day, meditating, taking long walks on the river, cooking food for my family, and following the path of my career. So whether it’s a whirl in a Ferrari around a racetrack, praying more, studying the bible, renewing my faith in Judaism, getting baptized or stepping up my community service, my arms are open.

Next month is my CAT scan to determine whether my liver cancer is receding, growing, just sitting there or gone, gone, gone. I am praying for it to disappear.