UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Welcome to the Camino de Cancer

By David Giuliano

There are all manner of caminos. The most familiar is the Camino de Santiago. It begins in France and, by various routes, leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, where the remains of St. James are reputed to be buried. People walk it for all sorts of reasons. Some people go for the exercise and physical challenge. Others go looking for community among fellow travellers. Still, others seek healing, wisdom or spiritual meaning.

There are many pilgrimage destinations: Mecca, Machu Picchuto, Lourdes and Graceland, to name just a few. Camino de means simply  “the way” or “the road.” Not all caminos are geographical, though. Some are made almost invisibly in our inner lives.

Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest and founder of the Centre for Creation Spirituality, described four paths or ways of the spiritual journey. The Via Positiva is the way of ecstasy, joy and delight.  The Via Creativa is the way of creativity and co-creation. The Via Transformativa is the way of struggle for justice, healing and compassion. And the Via Negativa — the way of darkness, chaos, suffering, silence, and letting go and letting be.

The Via Negativa — that sort of camino — is rarely chosen or even welcome. It comes upon us, abducts us, and we choose to walk and listen — or not. I have had cancer on and off, for more than 20 years. Right now, my cancer is, as they say, “in remission,” and I am feeling strong, healthy and happy (Read Giuliano's recent interview with Healthy Debate). But it has been both the source of suffering and a harsh teacher of wisdom. It has been unwelcome, and it has been a blessing. It comes banging on the door of my soul like a hostile stranger — an unwelcome guest. I have tried to redeem its malignant presence by walking with and by writing about this stranger. I have gained some life, wonder, wisdom and laughter along The Way. Perhaps you — or someone you love — are walking a similar path with this shadow stranger. Perhaps, we can walk together a ways.

Welcome to the Via Negativa. Welcome to the “Camino de Cancer.

Author's photo
David Giuliano is the former moderator of The United Church of Canada, an award-winning writer and author of "Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God." He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Marathon, Ont. His blog, "Camino de Cancer," will be updated on the first Tuesday of the month.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: A Tale of Two Cancers

by Observer Staff

Catherine Gordon's October 2017 feature for The Observer, 'A tale of two cancers,' recently caught the eye of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and his Washington, D.C.-based team, and inspired a short documentary. Gordon talks about the experience of writing the article and participating in the film.

Promotional Image


October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.


September 2017


by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image