cherie franklin




OCCUPATION: Psychotherapist, teacher, writer.

As a teacher and psychotherapist Cherie Martin Franklin exemplified the courage and commitment that healing calls forth. Her way of being; whether in her work, her garden, her family and community, inspired The Healing Bridge Project in countless ways. In 2001 Cher was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and she embarked on what she knew as a “descent into the underworld [that]involves not just a physical healing process but a soul journey as well—a descent into the depths of ‘who you are and why you’re here.”

Cher agreed to share her journey on The Healing Bridge but the progression of cancer intervened. This speech, presented in March 2003, conveys all the elements her interview would have expressed. We are honored, with her daughter’s blessing, to share it here.

Cher was the master healer other healers turned to. As a steward and mother she drew upon love, ritual and wisdom to guide her daughters and numerous women. She was an inspired leader and mentor and humbly pointed others to their Source. As a visionary Cher knew how it was to die to the old and awake to greater truths. And she shared these graceful discoveries through earth-rich images in her writing and poetry.

Cher, a woman of extraordinary beauty, was a beloved companion, friend and sister.
A world wide community mourns her passing on April 18, 2003. Today, Cherie Martin Franklin continues to guide and inspire the hearts and souls of many who are so very grateful to have known and loved her.





My name is Cherie Franklin. And until April of 2001, my life was rolling along quite nicely. I am a psychotherapist specializing in work with women and spiritual psychology, and I’ve been a meditator for 25 years. But in the winter of 2001 I started to not feel well.

. . .One night I was lying in bed reading when my hand slid across my ribs and felt a lump under my right breast about the size of a walnut. I sat bolt upright in bed and knew this was not something to ignore. The next day I was at the breast center having a biopsy. . . . I was 99% sure it would be benign since my mammogram in August had been fine. . . . When my Dr. called on Monday afternoon her voice sounded shaky and she said “It’s not good, Cher, it’s not good.” It was an aggressive form of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had spread to the liver and bones. My oncologist said “This is about as bad as it gets.” What do you do when you get news like this? I think I went into shock. And then, with the help of my husband, I started thinking about our treatment options.

… Searching for my truth, I realized what a gift it is to be alive, just to feel the sun on my face. I got really clear I wanted to live. And once I made this decision I could mobilize my energies to move toward treatment with the strong intention to heal rather than waiting for something or someone to heal me.

. . . Love poured in in all forms. During those first few weeks, I had the uncanny experience of transcendent joy. Here I was with a death-dealing diagnosis of aggressive end-stage cancer, and I was sitting outside on a glorious spring day watching the flowers bloom, listening to the birds sing and receiving love from everyone around me. I felt held and uplifted, like everything would be just fine.
How can we understand this phenomenon—was it just the initial relief that comes from suddenly not having anything expected of you? Or was it the influx of all that healing energy and prayer sent my way inwardly and outwardly. I can only hypothesize. But it served to hold me steady in those early days. Looking back now and knowing the painful journey that lay ahead, I feel like it was an influx of light—a gift really—given from all sides to strengthen me for what was to come.

. . . Although there are many things that I and others have found helpful in the healing journey, the reality is that cancer does not discriminate—meat eaters and vegetarians both get cancer. People who eat and drink exactly what they feel like and never exercise get it as do health food/exercise junkies. We don’t know what causes cancer and we don’t know what cures it. Everything heals somebody and no one thing heals everybody. So how does one approach the maze of options and decision-making involved upon diagnosis?

. . . Healing resources abound, both inside us and all around us. And it helps to remember they’re there. My sister, who is a physician, said when I was first diagnosed—”remember—your body has a lot of health in it, even though it also has this disease.” And that supported my strategy—to strengthen what was healthy in me to fight that which was diseased and destructive. So in addition to traditional interventions like chemotherapy, an absolute necessity without which I probably would not be here today, I added a number of alternative healing modalities. . . .

. . . But the particular interventions that have been right for me are not what matters here. What is important is to put in place practices that you are comfortable with, have some faith in and derive some comfort from. Because this descent into the underworld involves not just a physical healing process but a soul journey as well—a descent into the depths of ‘who you are and why you’re here.

. . . Embracing trust or faith in something larger than yourself—the Source in whatever form makes sense to you--and drawing on that to get through the day is indispensable. But sometimes even this is difficult. There have been times when I couldn’t pray or meditate at all. I was so angry at the Divine for letting this happen that I couldn’t draw on it. I didn’t know where to turn at times like these. And with all my tools, I judged that 1 should be able to do better than that. But beating myself up for how I was going through it was not helpful either. Accepting things as they were and knowing it was temporary enabled me to keep breathing and stay calm.

. . . Learning to nurture ourselves rather than do what others (or parts of ourselves) expect is essential for healing. Learning to say what Virginia Satir called “our real yes’s and our real no’s”—learning to value ourselves enough to live our life rather than everyone else’s is life-saving. Women, especially, in this culture are conditioned to take care of everyone else and give their own energy away. I have learned in healing from cancer that this has to change. I have to see this pattern, recognize when I am doing it, and work daily on doing what is right for me rather than everybody else. Not an easy thing to change after over 50 years of practice.

Finding your real yes’s and your real no’s sometimes involves telling people things they don’t want to hear. When you have cancer, many people want to hear that you’re feeling and doing well, not how awful you feel. Having the courage to speak my truth when it includes things others are not comfortable with has been part of my healing. This journey inevitably brings with it sadness, fear, despair, grief, discouragement, anger, depression, and other dark emotions. I felt tremendously disillusioned—I thought if you lived a good life and served others, things like this wouldn’t happen to you. Apparently that is not true—and it uprooted a part of my belief system and left me not knowing what to believe. Again, practicing simply being with these feelings is powerful medicine, however difficult. It is what I help my clients do every day, and it is the medium through which healing happens.

. . . Speaking of the battle, I find that I don’t like the language “You’re going to beat this thing.” First of all it doesn’t seem to me that it’s only about “beating it.” Going through it is such a transformational, if painful, process that to reduce the whole thing to “beating it” misses its power and gifts. Secondly, I know that I am not doing the work of healing alone. A profoundly important part of the healing process is community—which can mean many things. One thing it can mean is friends and family drawing near to provide support, soup, rides to treatment or whatever is needed. Another thing community can provide is sacred ritual, which humans have created throughout time.

. . . Hardly anyone asks: What are you learning? Yet, the journey through the fire can’t help but teach you things. And if you pay attention to this level of the experience, this question, “What am I Learning?” you will gain insight into parts of your personality that may have served you in the past, but now need to change. Like practically every woman I’ve worked with has a part of her that wants everyone to be happy and taken care of, so much so that she loses access to the knowledge of what she wants and needs as well as the entitlement to let herself ask for it. My journey has given me plenty of opportunities to see myself giving my energies away instead of getting nourished myself. This is definitely part of my disease because it results in a loss of soul. It is not life-giving. The fact that your life hangs in the balance brings these patterns into focus and makes it possible to look deeply into them and their roots. Not a comfortable process! But inevitable in a rite of passage. And again, you need rituals to help you through: personal rituals like lighting a candle every morning and drawing energy up your body from earth with your imagination and breath, saying a prayer, seeing a therapist, or writing in a journal.

It is a temptation to try to figure out why you got cancer or what it means. And there are many people out there who are ready to tell you what they think. But no one can interpret another’s disease. Meaning takes time to unfold, and only the person living it can know that meaning over time.

. . . There is a reciprocity of giving and receiving that goes on which changes all who are involved. I had to allow and accept my vulnerability, my need for help and I had to be willing to let others see it and provide help. This wasn’t easy for someone who had been identified with independence, self-sufficiency and not needing help. . . . Somehow it brought home the reality we lose sight of—that we’re all the same and we’re all in this together—that in fact we are One and Life is sacred. My illness brought into the foreground the preciousness as well as the fragility of life and prompted me and others to make profound life changes.

There is so much learning that goes on in the depth places of who you are—like the questions: why am I in this world? What did I come to do? What do I love? And my favorite—What is mine to do? Because it becomes obvious how precious life is and you start wanting to live it to the fullest while you can, enjoy it, and find the things that bring you pleasure and joy. Roberto Assagioli said “When joy is present, war is impossible.” Think about this being true inside the body as well as outside.

To experience joy, you have to be present for it—you have to be awake and aware in all your senses in the present moment, not preoccupied with the past or the future. This is not the way we usually live. So learning how to be present to yourself is an essential part of healing. Because you have to be present in order to know what is going on in your body, your feelings, your mind, your spirit and your relationships. And there are healing resources to draw from in all of these . . .




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