February 2022 WATERritual: Honoring the Faces of Cancer for World Cancer Day

February 22, 2022 WATERritual

Honoring the Faces of Cancer for World Cancer Day

By Diann L. Neu

Listen to the audio recording of the February 2022 WATERritual here.



Have near a bowl for water, a towel, and a stone.


Call to Gather

Tonight, we come together “Honoring the Faces of Cancer for World Cancer Day,” commemorated on February 4 each year. Sooner or later cancer has an impact on all of us, either personally or through a loved one. Cancer is a critical health and social issue for everyone.

World Cancer Day beckons us to raise awareness of cancer, to be united with all who have or have had cancer, and to pray desperately for a cure for cancer.

In this ritual we will pray with those who have or who have had cancer, their friends, colleagues, communities, and families. We will remember those who have gone before us and assure those living with cancer that they are not alone. We will pray for a cure, and a future where this life-threatening disease no longer exists. Let us ask spiritual guides to be with us as we pray.


Invoking Spiritual Guides

Great Spirit, life force that animates all elements of the natural world, You generate cosmic creative energy, and connect us to people, plants, animals, land forms, and celestial bodies.

Come, be with us here, and with all who need you now.

Kuan Yin, Buddhist Bodhisattva of China, You harken to the cries of the world, and appear with infinite compassion and mercy.

Come, be with us here, and with all who need you now.            

Mary, Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth and mother of Jesus, You proclaim the holiness that dwells within you, and comfort those living with cancer.

Come, be with us here, and with all who need you now.

Brigit, Celtic Goddess and Saint of Healing, You spread your cloak of mercy to heal ailments of body and spirit, and perform many miracles of healing using water from your sacred wells.

Come, be with us here, and with all who need you now.

Saint Mother Théodore Guérin, founder of the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, You cured Sister Mary Theodosia Mug of breast cancer and a malignant tumor in her abdomen with a miracle. You assure us that if we lean upon Providence we will be well supported, and receive healing miracles.

Come, be with us here, and with all who need you now.


Song: “Mi Shebeirach” by Debbie Friedman, Jewish folk singer who died from complications of pneumonia in 2011 at age 59.


Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength
Who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing
And let us say Amen

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avoteinu
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit
And let us say Amen


Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Debbie Friedman / Drorah Setel


Litany of Remembrance

Surrounded by Spiritual Guides and Healing Spirits, let us remember some of the brave and courageous people with cancer whose lives touch ours. Write the names of people you want to remember in the chat.

Coretta Scott King, American civil rights activist, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., died at age 78 of complications from ovarian cancer.

We remember you, Coretta. Sound the Zen bowl.

Mary Oliver, beloved American poet, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, was treated and given a clean bill of health. She died of lymphoma in 2019 at the age of 83.

We remember you, Mary. Sound the Zen bowl.

Barbara Rosenblum, Jewish sociologist, co-author of Cancer in Two Voices, died of breast cancer August 1988.

We remember you, Barbara. Sound the Zen bowl.

Audre Lorde, poet laureate of New York State in 1991, influential Black writer on feminist, racial, lesbian, and sexual issues, died of breast cancer November 17, 1992.

We remember you, Audre. Sound the Zen bowl.

Shannon Miller, seven-time Olympic gymnastics medalist, beat ovarian cancer, had two children, and is dedicated to making sure women pay attention to their health.

We remember you, Shannon. Sound the Zen bowl.

Angelina Jolie, actress, raised global awareness of breast cancer, genetic testing and pre-emptive medical procedures when she revealed her decision to have a double mastectomy. Her surgeon says that by going public with her experience she has saved lives.

We remember you, Angelina. Sound the Zen bowl.

Dr. Susan Love, American surgeon, advocate of preventive breast cancer research, survivor of leukemia.

We remember you, Susan. Sound the Zen bowl.

Daughters of mothers who have cancer, who face their own fears of having cancer.

We remember you. Sound the Zen bowl.

Family, friends, and colleagues who are living with or have died of cancer.

We remember you. Sound the Zen bowl.

Women who will die today of cancer, and women who will survive.

We remember you. Sound the Zen bowl.


Listen to Women Living with Cancer

Women with cancer have wisdom to share. Let us listen to some of their words.

“An individual doesn’t get cancer, a family does.”

Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist, writer, environmental activist

“Your first emotion isn’t ‘Am I going to lose my breast?’ It’s ‘Am I going to lose my life?’”

Linda Ellerbee, TV reporter

“When death stalked me, I recognized it. Death was a powerful presence I had met again and again in prisons and execution chambers, on the streets, and in the cat holes of the homeless, in the deadly decisions and unctuous proclamations of the bureaucrats of the state and the church… but I clung

to the assurance that closes Psalm 23, ‘Surely grace and mercy have run after me my whole life long.’”

—Murphy Davis, Presbyterian minister

“But when this happens to you—and I think other people would identify with this—suddenly, colors are brighter. You see everything.”

—Lynn Redgrave, actress

“When it’s over I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement…

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

Mary Oliver, poet, “When Death Comes”

“You need to live BIG through something bad.”

Sean Patrick, founder of HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve gone through, but it showed me who I am.”

Brittany Daniel, actress

“My cancer scare changed my life. I’m grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life.”

—Olivia Newton-John, singer

“Cancer wakes you up, and you say, ‘There must be more out there to life. I wonder what that is.’”

—Jill Eikenberry, actress

“Living a self-conscious life, under the pressure of time, I work with the consciousness of death at my shoulder, not constantly, but often enough to leave a mark upon all of my life’s decisions and actions. And it does not matter whether this death comes next week or thirty years from now; this consciousness gives my life another breadth. It helps shape the words I speak, the ways I love, my politic of action, the strength of my vision and purpose, the depth of my appreciation of living.”

Audre Lorde, poet, Cancer Journal


Song: “How Can I Keep from Singing,” early Quaker song, American gospel tune,


My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.

Refrain: No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock, I’m clinging.

Since love prevails in heaven and Earth, How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest round me roars, I know the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness ’round me close, songs in the night it giveth.

Refrain: I lift my eyes. The cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it.

And day by day, this pathway smooths, since first I learned to love it.

Refrain: No storm can shake my inmost calm, I hear the music ringing.

It sounds an echo in my soul, How can I keep from singing?


Reflection Groups

What have you heard that inspires you to keep singing and honor the faces of cancer?


Blessing with Water

Hold a bowl of water representing a sacred well. Holy wells through the ages have been believed to have healing powers that cure ailments. Water is a healing and regenerative force. It facilitates life. It is spoken of as the source, the healer, the transformer, the spring of ancient wisdom.

Look at the bowl and visualize the healing powers of the water. Think of the healing you need. Visualize your healing powers. (Pause).

Touch the water with your hands (Pause), then touch your hands, saying:

Bless my hands that I may touch with love, and heal.

Touch your eyes, saying:

Bless my eyes that I may see clearly the pain of others, and heal.

Touch your ears, saying:

Bless my ears that I may hear the cries of the world, and heal.

Touch your mouth, saying:

Bless my mouth that I may speak healing words, and heal.

Touch your heart, saying:

Bless my heart that I may be compassionate, and heal.

Touch your breasts, or where your breasts used to be, saying:

Bless my breasts, or where they used to be, that I may love myself, and heal.

Touch your feet, saying:

Bless my feet that I may walk my path courageously, and heal.

Touch your whole body, saying:

Bless my whole body that I may be filled with healing grace, and heal.


Stones of Solidarity

In Celtic mythology, stones have healing qualities. They activate the power of holy wells. They symbolize your healing powers and the healing powers of this and other communities. Hold your stone.

One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. I put this stone in the water for every woman who hears the words: “You have breast cancer.” Spirit of Life, give her strength to face the unknown, patience to go through the tests, and courage to make the decisions that are best for her.

We are here with you; you are not alone.

For every woman living with cancer, there are family and friends who are shocked and grieving. I put this stone in the water for all mothers and fathers, partners and husbands, children and siblings, friends and colleagues who wait and watch. Holy One on the Journey, give them strength to be with their loved one.

We are here with you; you are not alone.

Early detection is the best protection. I put this stone in the water for all involved in cancer research whose life and work make early detection, careful diagnosis, and the hope of healing possible. God of Many Names, guide their minds to discover the ways of cancer.

We are here with you; you are not alone.

The days of treatment are so long, the chemotherapy and radiation so scary, the face in the mirror is so strange. I put this stone in the water for all who fight the exhaustion, the fear, the loss of hair and appetite; for all who fight back, who stay the course, and look fear in the face with courage and even with humor. Divine Courage and Laughter, be near.

We are here with you; you are not alone.

Faith, prayer, and community are sources of help and healing. I put this stone in the water for all the prayers and visits, the phone calls and cards, the food and kind acts that bring comfort and healing. Divine Hospitality, surround us with community.

We are here with you; you are not alone.

There will be a cure; there must be a cure! I put this stone in the water for all who believe in and work toward the day when cancer does not take the lives of women, men, children, and animals. O Divine Healer, send your healing spirit to bring a cure for cancer now.

We are here with you; you are not alone.


Take Action

Let’ s put our prayers into action.

~ Call a friend who is living with cancer and ask them how they are.

~ Pray for people you know who have cancer.


Song:  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” performed by Barbara Streisand


When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers

You’ll Never Walk Alone lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC


Sending Forth

Let us go forth honoring the faces of cancer.

Let us go forth to raise awareness of cancer.

Let us go forth to be ones with all who have or have had cancer.

Let us go forth to pray for a cure for cancer.

Remember, we are not alone.


© 2022 Diann L. Neu, WATER, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, dneu@hers.com