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Dancing with Cancer and how I learnt a few new steps

by Diana Brueton

listed in cancer

[Image: Dancing with Cancer and how I learnt a few new steps]

Diana Brueton (aka Prem Diana, devotee of Osho of 32 years), left her body on 14th March 2012. A writer, a teacher and art therapist she had worked for the BBC and also The Bristol Cancer Help Centre (now renamed the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre). She began journaling shortly after being told, at the age of 55 that she had terminal colon cancer.To read her account, Dancing with Cancer (and how I learnt a few new steps) is to appreciate why some regard the experience of illness as analogous with the mythological ‘hero’s journey’.

Over what was to become a 4-year process Diana passes from a life of activity and fulfilment through shock, pain, joy, hope, despair, anger, anxiety, witnessing, acceptance, catharsis, sadness; ‘the wobbles’ as she calls them; not-knowing, hurt, disappointment; outrage, trust, love, fear, centring, doubt, insight, gratitude, vulnerability, celebration, empowerment, peace, fear and humour (not necessarily in that order) to the final let go.

Awesome to read of the unremitting challenges she faces - some anticipated, others out of the blue - and of her determination to be present to whatever is happening and find the lessons inherent along the way. Happily, not only is she rich in outer resources - notably in the unwavering, loving support of a wide circle of friends, of her two siblings and of her husband Chetan - equally significant is the reservoir of inner resources she calls on. As an art therapist, she appreciates the value of expressing her feelings through the medium of painting. Her dreams, which are plentiful, illumine and direct, and enable her to make sense of what is happening.

The writing, in itself, of this book also provides her with support - in the form of her imagined readers, you and I. On attending one particular consultation she comments:

“If…being told about the liver secondaries were awful, this was on the same scale. No, worse. It would drain me of hope. Even now writing about it is excruciating. Even now I need to have my hand held to endure it. Thank you for being with me, reader. The gratitude expressed there in those early days develops into a theme to which she constantly returns…

“My body has suddenly become quite strange to me, as though it’s not really mine… It’s time to befriend it… and in particular to acknowledge it for the fantastic job it’s done all my life, and still now. Thank you, lovely body. Let me know what you need. I’ll love you, not to be scared of you.”

And later:

“The tumour markers were down yesterday to 794!!! Amazing, after 50000+ in November. Thank you for the healing.”

Another resource, the glue holding her together when everything is disintegrating around and inside her, is Diana’s sense of the spiritual. In her language, ‘God’ and ‘the divine’ are felt through the connection to her master, Osho, through the prayer service of Silent Unity (a Christian organisation), rituals from the American Indian tradition and the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism.

Initially, when feelings are running high, meditation eludes her, then a little further along she notes:

“Meditation is feeling easier now. It is the time for deepening that as much as I can. Watching the fears and griefs, and coming back to the wonderful now whenever I can.”

Witnessing becomes pivotal. She writes,

“This is what I have to do now. Return to the centre, my core, so that I am not buffeted by all the emotions, the events, the decisions. Become the watcher, always from that centred place.”

She had decided early on to record her experiences, both for the support that gave her and could give others, and for helping her make sense of it all.

Diana shares with us what happened in that week or day just past, and then brings us back to the present moment. She is a little torn by that device, noting:

“Why write this, visit the difficult past when the present is so precious? Outside, frogs are croaking loudly, the storm has awakened them. Maybe I too need to sing my song.”

Nothing focuses us as much as the knowledge of our impending death, and Diana consistently discovers the awesome in what had once seemed ordinary. For example, “The beachside bars have closes for the season. We walk barefoot under cloudless skies.” And later: “Raking up leaves in the warm October sunshine…. What was once a chore is now a pleasure.”

Post-it notes cover my copy like confetti because there is so much quotable within these pages - not only a liberal splattering of Osho, Rumi and Hafiz but of Diana’s own insights, exclamations, observations and reflections, all expressed in her lovely lyrical style.

“The river looks like an unmoving silver chain. Upstream, our home. Downstream, rock where one day my ashes will lie beneath Dartmoor soil. But now, children play beside the river in soft spring sunlight.”


“The cat brings in a dying mouse. I see it take its last breath, and am ridiculously upset. Bright eyes, soft fur, perfect. I bury it under leaves beneath a hedge.”

Along with:

“I’ve woken up calm, peaceful and happy. I got up to make drinks, and saw that in the garden a mass of primroses has come up. Then I felt a bit faint, must have overdone it. Chetan just held me for ages, it was so beautiful. I know how extraordinarily blessed I am.

“And look – porridge has arrived now!”

So many entries read like haiku, such as….

“Two magpies perch high in an autumnal tree.
One for sorrow, one for joy.
I am still here.”

And the last in her book, perhaps her self-created epitaph:

“I am the Dance
And I still go on.”

A gripping story and telling of it. In spite of knowing what was to come, I took the book with me - to bed, to the beach, on a commute, to a waiting room - exactly as I would if it were a thriller. And, beloved Diana, I mean that in the very best, most exalted sense of the word!

[Editor’s Note: For cancer patients, physicians, and oncologists, perhaps some of the most insightful and invaluable information in this book come from the scrupulously honest and detailed description of the medical procedures, surgeries, referrals and consultations which  Diana underwent throughout the 4 years from diagnosis to her death. This aspect of the book reveals the significant divergence in opinions held by senior Consultants regarding prognosis, surgery and chemotherapy, and the value of continuing to re-evaluate and seek further guidance. Due to the extent of her cancer beyond the colon to her liver, surgery was initially ruled out. However, following successful chemotherapy, she consulted Dr Rosy Daniel who encouraged her to be proactive about her liver and to have a surgical consultation in Germany. In fact the innovative laser ablation and surgical techniques she underwent to her liver tumours enabled her to eventually undergo surgery back in the UK to remove tumours in her colon. Although Diana wrote that she didn’t initially ask for a prognosis, she divulges that doctors mentioned 6 months to her husband; that she lived 4 years reveals the value of the holistic conventional and diverse alternative treatments (Reiki, healing, supplements, meditation, art therapy) Diana pursued.]

Further Information

Book available online from:
Kindle available from:
Or through the Publisher:

Maneesha, Osho News –   Osho News tribute page for Prema Diana

Acknowledgement Citation

This review by Maneesha James was previously published in Osho News 18 January 2014; reproduced with permission:

Maneesha James
John Hunt Publishing (O-BOOKS)
978-1-78279-217-8 ebook £6.99/$9.99. ISBN 978-1-78279-216-1

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