On a cold January day in the Windy City in 2010, I received the pathologist’s call telling me that I had breast cancer. At first I felt calm and rational. As a parish pastor, I had tended to so many women with breast cancer over the years that I simply thought “well, one in eight women gets this diagnosis in her lifetime.” But things quickly became more personal and fragile as I made complex treatment decisions, lost my hair, spent nine days in the hospital critically ill from a reaction to a study drug, and lost my identity as a healthy career woman.
Six months later, as soon as I was back on my feet, I started working on this project of shaping a workbook for breast cancer survivors to gather for group wisdom, support and spiritual guidance. I wanted to create a safe place for women to tell stories without feeling the need to edit or censor, as sometimes happens with co-workers, partners, children, or friends. The workbook serves as a springboard for discussion and healing, and guides participants through seven sessions complete with exercises, devotional readings, and ample opportunity to share one’s stories with other participants. The consistent structure and carefully worded guidelines allow women to lead their own group process without need of an outside authority or expert. Taking an ecumenical and interfaith approach, A New Song to Sing welcomes participants of all faiths and backgrounds, and can be modified for use in a variety of different religious and spiritual traditions.
Breast cancer can be an isolating experience for many, and the journey is a vulnerable one. My dream is to help women tap into that vulnerability to allow a deepened relationship with the Holy, to know themselves to be beloved, and to claim their deepest truth. Writing this book was a way to insist that I maintain my own vulnerability, rather than closing myself off from the experience and pretending it never happened. I hope and pray that A New Song to Sing creates space to fully embrace the possibilities for spiritual growth and healing, even years after treatment.
Writing this book has been my focus for the past five years, and no doubt it has been a source of my own continued healing. Pilot groups using this workbook have been conducted in the Midwest and Southwest, and I am profoundly encouraged by those positive experiences, and the love and faith cultivated in those settings. To me, the important thing is to make this book available to as many communities as possible, and as many survivors as possible. Then we will all be a little closer to living into our hope, and living into our truth. Some days I dare to believe I was meant to write this book. Some days I dare to believe I will live to see it make a difference.
What Others are Saying
Review of “A New Song to Sing” featured on website of Presbyterian Outlook:
“Linda C. Loving’s spiritual guide for navigating the breast cancer journey is inspirational and heartfelt and combines Linda’s generous authenticity with her deep wisdom and gifted eloquence as a spiritual leader. A New Song to Sing is relevant for use with groups seeking spiritual wholeness during other serious illnesses or life challenges as well. I am heartened that this spiritual support resource is now available and look forward to its widespread use in faith-based communities.”
—Betsy Finkelmeier, RN, MBA, Healthcare Consultant
“[A] treasure chest of resources! A New Song to Sing should be in every church, synagogue and mosque library and readily available to every faith leader among whose congregations are many who should not have to face breast cancer alone.”
—John M. Buchanan, Former Editor/Publisher: The Christian Century , Pastor Emeritus: The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago
“A New Song to Sing calls participants to wholeness and holiness as stories are shared and sacred passages are read over a journey of seven weeks. Rev. Loving has created a powerful process that offers hope and healing, a ‘spiritual scaffolding’ for the journey through breast cancer treatment and recovery. This remarkable book is perfect for faith communities to embrace as part of their ministry.”
—Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, Director, Center for Spirituality & Healing and Professor, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota
“I had never been to the church; but, I quickly found that I ‘belonged’ on this journey of women who were sharing their stories, support and love. I was amazed at the end when I realized that I had forgotten we all had cancer!”
—Maureen, Pilot Project Participant
“As a nineteen year survivor, what I learned is that I really needed the women in this group to help me understand how much the experience had shaped my life. Through the exercises suggested in this workbook, I learned how to trust the support and love I was offered on this journey. What a marvelous tool”
—Jeannie, Pilot Project Participant
“Part journal, part workbook, A New Song to Sing offers the wisdom and courage of experience and the confidence of the author’s deep faith and gracious spirit. It provides an inspirational framework to create community, and a ‘sisterhood of spirit’ with readings, resiliency training and self-reflection. It is rare to see health, healing and faith woven together so smoothly. Its message will resonate with anyone whose life has been shaken by a serious loss or illness.”
—Jamie Von Roenn, MD, V.P. Education, Science, & Professional Development, American Society of Clinical Oncology
“An innovative template for those with the shared experience of breast cancer to create small ecumenical communities to facilitate spiritual and emotional healing. By sharing her own story, and showing how others can do the same in a warm, compassionate environment, Linda C. Loving provides a place for women to reflect, belong and begin anew. I heartily recommend A New Song to Sing to my patients and colleagues.”
—Sarina Schrager, MD, MS, Professor, University of Wisconsin, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health