An Excerpt from If Joan of Arc Had Cancer
by Janet Roseman
I like to visit consignment stores because I enjoy the exploration and the fact that you can often unearth treasures. A few months after my mother’s passing, in an attempt to distract myself from the emotional pain I was feeling, I asked her to send me a “sign” that would indicate that she was with me. Wandering around one of my favorite haunts, I heard a loud thump and looked around to see what had happened. A large painting had fallen over, and I picked it up. The painting was a vintage depiction of Joan of Arc confidently riding her horse with her sword held high.
At that moment, I knew this was my mother’s sign to me because she knew that I was in need of courage — frightened of living in what had become an unfamiliar world without her — and that resurrecting my courage was terrifying. I spent the next few months immersed in all things Joan and reading everything I could find about her life. The more I read, the more I became convinced that Joan of Arc would be the model for my next book, this book, for she was the ideal inspiration for any woman traversing a difficult passage. After reading the original text of her trial, I was impressed by her humor, bravado, moxie, and never-ending faith in herself.
She is the perfect choice to honor you. Perhaps you have been drawn into or experienced the prevailing cultural belief that “people with cancer are weak,” which is not the case at all. My experiences have taught me that people living with cancer (or any other serious illness) possess great courage, enviable courage. This book celebrates that fact. After your diagnosis or during your treatments, you may have received advice from well-meaning but ill-informed people who assert that you are responsible for your illness because of perceived “negative thinking.” They may have told you that “if only you would change your point of view,” then you would be cancer free.
If only life were that simple! Life is a mystery, and unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers to the “why” questions. Although everyone is entitled to their belief system, the advice is dismissive, if not dangerous, and victimizes any person with a serious illness. I have also discovered that usually the advice is delivered by people who have never had a personal experience of serious illness. These conversations are very frustrating, and if you examine the lives of the saints who suffered enormous health problems, you realize that they were hardly “negative thinkers” — on the contrary, they were mystics and sages of the highest spiritual order.
Positive thinking, exercise, great nutrition, excellent medical care, personal empowerment, and the provision of emotional and spiritual support can all offer tremendous healing in the midst of any life challenge. However, I also believe that attending to all of your feelings — the dark as well as the light — can be healing as well. All of the emotions — happiness, rage, sadness, anger — have their proper place in the flow of our life; it is when we suppress and judge our emotions and when we dishonor their messages that difficulties arise. You will find exercises in this book to help you identify your feelings, and I urge you to be honest with yourself to derive maximum benefit from these exercises. Self-reflection and self-knowledge provide valuable insights that will help you take charge of your healing journey so you can decide what is best for you.
Creating an “army of support” requires educating your healthcare providers about what you need. The medical culture is wounded; but it is slowly changing, and you can be a primary force for eliciting that change. The role you can play in their humanistic education is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to expect more from your care — care that respects all parts of you and includes not only the physical body, but the emotional and spiritual components.
I didn’t know that my mother’s illness would be the catalyst for my life’s work in healing, and she is the inspiration I often draw upon, especially when I am feeling particularly frustrated or vulnerable. This book pays tribute to her and others I have loved and lost. Her courage, much like Joan of Arc’s, was palpable.
This book is a guide to help you through the many dimensions of illness and your subsequent healing journey. It is my heartfelt wish that this book will help you summon the inner strength, fortitude, and perseverance you will need and do possess. Although her path was quite formidable, Joan of Arc never gave up on her convictions. Imagine a teenager, a young girl in the fifteenth century without any experience in battle, claiming that she would lead France to glory. Her quest seems totally outrageous. She endured ridicule and harassment, and ultimately gave her life, but she never wavered in her belief in herself.
There are many versions of Joan of Arc’s trial that you can find online or in books, and it is interesting that many of the statements attributed to Joan differ. Although her words may not be exactly the same in each history book or translation, Joan of Arc’s historical contributions are never questioned. I chose to use W. S. Scott’s version because I was drawn to the words he inscribed beneath the title: “Being the verbatim report of the proceedings from the Orleans Manuscript.” I believe it reflects the actual words that Joan spoke, carefully selected from the transcripts of her trial, held in 1431. During her trial, the proceedings were written down verbatim in French by a notary and his two assistants, who collaborated at the end of each day to produce the text of the transcripts.
The original notes were never found, although there is an abbreviated version called the d’Urfé manuscript that is now housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1435, the official transcript, known as the Authentic Document (which had been translated from the original French into Latin), was produced by the vice inquisitor from the trial, and four copies were made and sent to the pope, the king, the judge from the trial, and the notary, with the original remaining in the vice inquisitor’s possession. All five were sealed and certified as correct.
However, historians believe that these transcripts do not contain Joan’s exact words and that her testimony was intentionally falsified to prove the claim that she was a heretic. The official report is from the notes of Guillaume Manchon and other notaries by Thomas de Courcelles, but his version was intentionally falsified. A woman successfully leading men into battle and claiming to hear voices from God was unheard-of not only for her time, but for any time. When she refused to alter one word of her narrative during her trial, proclaiming that she only took direction from Divine guidance, it cost Joan of Arc her life. She was a woman well versed in her power and willing to pay the ultimate price for reclaiming it.
The Authentic Document was published in 1902, followed by other editions in 1931 and 1956. The Orléans manuscript, which resides in the Bibliothèque Municipale d’Orléans, is considered the most authentic because it was directly copied from the original French version and reflects Joan’s actual statements.
If Joan of Arc Had Cancer is much more than words. It is a book of sacred guidance. Use each section of this book when you are in need of reinforcement, and support that can guide you during your journey. The second section of the book, called Gateways to Courage, will help you explore in depth the themes in the first section. Take your time to explore and work with the Flames of Courage in part 1. I suggest that you read a theme a day (one Flame of Courage every day) for a month. Part 1 contains meditations that can help you access your inner knowing in preparation for the Gateways to Courage in part 2.
The Gateways will help you explore in depth the themes from part 1. Each Gateway contains art and guided visualizations that mirror the corresponding themes in the Flames of Courage section of the book. You may wish to work with one theme from the Flame section during one reading session and return on another day, when you have uninterrupted time, to go deeper into that theme by reading the corresponding Gateway. There is no right way to use this book, only your way. Feel free to allow Joan of Arc to inspire you by using this book in a manner that feels right for you and addresses your desires and needs.
Everyone needs and deserves support and encouragement in life, but when navigating cancer, often you require more than that. This book will serve and guide you to resurrect the strength, courage, and wisdom that I know you hold. You have the same inner fortitude that Joan possessed. Let her be your companion on your journey, an ally you can count on.
Excerpted from the book If Joan of Arc Had Cancer. © Copyright 2015 by Janet Roseman. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com