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The Cancer Whisperer

On the morning I found I didn’t have the energy to walk over to the horses…

illustration of women in pink on a pink horse

Pink Horse (detail) by Julia Breckenreid

Soon after my diagnosis it became increasingly difficult for me to move. I became breathless easily and the tumor on my C3 neck vertebra was excruciatingly painful much of the time. But I knew it was important for me to move my body as much as possible, to take it out into fresh clean air and let nature kiss it. So I went for a walk every day I could, rarely more than 20 minutes out from home and always with my phone in my pocket in case I got into trouble. I wanted to walk alone and feel the pulse of the beauty I live in the midst of—which helped me feel my own.A few fields away there is a small herd of horses, usually six or seven, belonging to a neighbor. Their field sometimes needs to be cleared of horse dung, but they are otherwise well kept, and I had walked among them many times since we moved to the countryside. Mostly they ignored me unless I approached them, which they permitted in an indifferent kind of way. No doubt eating grass or the hay left out for them was far more interesting than my hand stroking their silky necks. I loved going home with the sweet musty smell of them on my fingers.Th …


Adapted from The Cancer Whisperer: Finding Courage, Direction, and the Unlikely Gifts of Cancer by Sophie Sabbage, published this month by Plume, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright © 2017 by Sophie Sabbage.

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