In the fall of 1983, Treya Killam was about to be married to Ken Wilber, a prominent theorist in the field of transpersonal psychology, when she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of breast cancer. This is Ken Wilber's story, with much of it told through his wife Treya's journals and letters, of their five-year battle against her cancer, a long roller-coaster ride that ended in her death by euthanasia in 1988. The narrative includes details of several conventional and unconventional cancer therapies.


Grace and Grit follows the course of the disease in depth on both medical and spiritual levels. Both Ken and Treya bring to the subject a deep yet critical interest in transpersonal psychology, philosophy, and esoteric religions, and they range widely over Western, Eastern, and "New Age" resources in an attempt to answer two questions: What, in any tradition, can Treya do to promote the healing of her body, and what can she and Ken do to hold their spirits together in the face of her worsening prospects?

In the process, they put a number of New Age ideas and practices to the test. It is typical of the eclectic and experimental quality of this book that near the beginning of their odyssey Ken makes a long list of alternative treatments to be researched. There is also a list of different cultures and the meanings or interpretations they would assign to cancer: Christian, New Age, Medical, Karma, Psychological, Gnostic, Existential, Holistic, Magical, Buddhist, and Scientific. For all its intellectual and spiritual energy, this is also a story about love, relationship, and the ups and downs of caregiving, as Ken puts his career on hold and devotes himself entirely to caring for his wife.

One of the book's particular charms is the interplay of its two voices, the diseased and the caregiver, both sophisticated people, articulate, and very much in love, but also very much their own persons, as they seek to find their way together through the labyrinth of Treya's calamity. "Grace and Grit" is a complex tale, a moving story that in addition opens up many vistas of therapeutic possibility.



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