Experience

Cancer–Free and Victorious

Reylynn Wright ends the cycle of cancer in her family.


Living Buddhism: Thank you for sharing your experience with us. How were you introduced to Nichiren Buddhism?

Reylynn Wright: I was 26 and living in Los Angeles when my neighbor told me about Nam-myoho-rengekyo. I attended several meetings with her, and while I liked the philosophy and people, I shied away from receiving the Gohonzon and distanced myself from the organization. During this time, my neighbor and other members whom I met continued to follow up with me to catch up. My neighbor passed away about a year later, and I attended her funeral at the local SGI center. Meeting the members after many months, I was reminded of the warmth of the SGI.

At that time, I was facing challenges at work and feeling pretty low. I knew I needed a change, so I started attending discussion meetings regularly and eventually received the Gohonzon on April 25, 2010. Shortly after this, I became the district young women’s leader!

That’s great! How was the beginning of your practice?

Reylynn: I felt the practice working, but I was still facing challenges in my life. The district members helped me stay consistent in chanting. I remember thinking one day, When will I have my great breakthrough? I want to have the type of experience that can encourage many others. I could never have guessed how the breakthrough would happen.

What happened?

Reylynn: Five years into my Buddhist practice, my world flipped upside down. On December 10, 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer. After reviewing my options, I took the risk of trying hormone therapy drugs. Before my six-month checkup, however, an MRI scan revealed that my tumor had grown from 1 centimeter to the size of a golf ball.

With no time to spare, I had a hysterectomy on July 18, 2016. I thought this would give me peace of mind, but I woke up to a living nightmare. The cancer had spread, and the doctor had to do a total hysterectomy to remove my uterus, cervix and ovaries. I felt hopeless, angry, sad and depressed.

To make matters worse, at my follow-up appointment two weeks later, I learned that my cancer had spread to my blood vessels and made its way to my lymph nodes. I was diagnosed at stage 3.

My heart dropped. I couldn’t fathom how I still carried the cancer cells inside of me. At this point, I didn’t want to chant anymore. I thought, What’s the point? It seemed like the more I chanted about my situation, the more bad news came my way.

What made you decide to persevere in faith?

Reylynn: I got guidance from a senior in faith who reminded me that the only way I could beat this cancer was to believe in and have confidence that there was no problem bigger than the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. She also encouraged me to own my karma and to take full responsibility to transform it.

Buddhahood exists in everything, even in my cancer cells, so I decided to make this experience an amazing opportunity.

I also turned to SGI President Ikeda’s guidance and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. In his letter “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” Nichiren writes, “You should realize that it is because of a profound karmic relationship from the past that you can teach others even a sentence or phrase of the Lotus Sutra.” He also says, “Only the ship of Myoho-renge-kyo enables one to cross the sea of the sufferings of birth and death” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 33).

As the only person who practices SGI Nichiren Buddhism in my family, I realized that I held the key to ending the cycle of cancer in my family.

My dad battled prostate cancer, and my aunt and grandfather passed away from different forms of cancer.

What happened as a result of your determination?

Reylynn: I started chemo on August 25, 2016. Although I experienced stomach pains and lost my hair, I remained strong and even returned to work during the last two months of my treatment.

After completing chemotherapy in December 2016, a CT scan picked up cancer cells inside my lymph nodes. I would have to undergo my second surgery to remove every cancerous cell in my body.

I knew that this was the true test of my faith, and I would joyfully fight this battle together with President Ikeda and my SGI family.

My surgery was scheduled for January 23, 2017. The day before, my district held an all-day chanting session for me. We chanted powerfully, like the roar of lions that shook the universe and activated the protective forces. In the midst of this rainy Sunday, I clearly remember the confidence welling forth from my life as I told myself: This is it! This is going to be my victory! That moment perfectly captured the spirit of my inner freedom, or Buddhahood, flowing forth regardless of my external circumstances. I was able to release all fear and gain the fighting spirit to press forward.

On the morning of my operation, I knew my doctor would have one of his best surgeries! When I woke up post-surgery, he had successfully removed every cancer cell in my body. This was followed by five weeks of radiation, which I completed in March.

Reylynn with a group of members who had been chanting with and supporting her throughout her battle with cancer, Long Beach, California. Photo: Jolie Tea.
When my friends ask me how I am able to remain so strong, I tell them it’s because I chant Nam-myohorenge- kyo and practice an amazing philosophy of human revolution.

After two years of this intense battle, I am finally cancer-free and feel absolutely victorious! Only in hindsight do we see things for what they really are. I now understand and deeply appreciate that in the crucial moment, tremendous protection and fortune surrounded my life as a result of my Buddhist practice. First, I was referred to one of the best oncologists, who gave me great quality care and treatment. Second, as a result of a recent job change, my health insurance covered nearly all of my medical expenses, including 100 percent of my chemotherapy and radiation. But perhaps most important, I was surrounded by family and friendswho never allowed me to give up. For that, I am
eternally grateful.

Congratulations! What has it been like since having this great victory?

Reylynn: Through appreciating everything and everybody in my life, I gained the confidence to introduce my good friend Lisa to Nichiren Buddhism. This was a big deal for me. I never thought that I would have the courage to introduce Buddhism to others. Lisa ended up attending the “Warriors of Jiyu” Young Women’s General Meeting with me on July 15. She loved the meeting and its message of hope and self-empowerment so much that right away, she told me that she couldn’t wait to start practicing Buddhism. I couldn’t believe what I had heard! One week later, Lisa received the Gohonzon. She told me, “Thank you for never giving up on me.” It was the most amazing feeling, and we were both crying tears of joy.

That’s incredible! Congratulations!

Reylynn: Everything that I went through has prepared me to show my family and friends what it means to be a courageous Bodhisattva of the Earth. When my friends ask me how I am able to remain so strong, I tell them it’s because I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practice an amazing philosophy of human revolution. I’m determined that each seed I plant connects my friends to the Mystic Law and the kosen-rufu movement.

Lisa has a great mission as a social worker who supports those living on the tumultuous streets of Skid Row, a poverty-stricken area of Los Angeles, frequented by the homeless and people suffering with substance abuse disorders. I can’t wait for her to receive many benefits from the practice and help transform her environment into the Buddha land. For me, this is what the movement to gather 50,000 “Lions of Justice” is all about.

What is your determination toward the gathering of 50,000 “Lions of Justice”?

Reylynn: Next year, I want to help two more friends become happy through this practice. And uniting as Long Beach Southeast District, we will bring out 20 powerful “Lions of Justice” to the festival.

When Josei Toda became the second president of the Soka Gakkai, he vowed to light the torch of happiness for 750,000 families who had suffered tremendously during World War II. He made it his life’s mission to erase the word misery from the face of the earth and passed that torch to President Ikeda. In turn, each of us has inherited that mission from Sensei.

I believe that our gathering of 50,000 “Lions of Justice” is our declaration that we can and will absolutely create a world where people will finally know peace and justice.

 

(pp. 38-41)