On Pilgrimage by Jennifer Lash
On Pilgrimage
By Jennifer Lash

This is one of the books my mother wrote, and it's a testament to her spirit and nature. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the '80s. It was a very aggressive tumor, caught late. As a consequence, she had to reevaluate her life, as we all did in the family. Suddenly the subject of mortality is staring you right in the face. How do you deal with it? Well, she dealt with that by putting on a pair of Nikes and a rucksack and setting off on a pilgrimage. She took a ferry to France, traveled to Lourdes and then all the way across the north of Spain to this wonderful city, which I urge anyone to visit, called Santiago de Compostela. She didn't want anyone in the family to go with her. The pilgrimage was about meeting other people; it was an exchange of faith, understanding, religions. To me, the book is a great insight into a side of my mother I hadn't heard about or witnessed before—this conversation she was having with cancer.

A last word: The most amazing line in the book, I think, is one of the bravest I've ever read: "Poor cancer." To look at cancer as this impoverished entity, rather than something to fear, or to have hatred for—you realize this is a book about understanding.


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