It was almost a year ago that I went in for a “routine” test and found that I had a cancerous tumor. In the intervening twelve months, I have seen a hospital room from “the pillow perspective” instead of the “bedside chaplain’s perspective.” I have spent a good amount of time, for the first time in my life, in a surgical suite. I have visited more doctors’ offices than I could have ever imagined. And I have received more pathology results than I could have ever wanted. I have also endured radiation therapy and chemotherapy (twice), and today marks the final dose of the final chemotherapy regimen. Phew!
Thank you all for your prayers and your loving support. Without your generous help over these months, I am not sure I would have had the stamina and hope that allowed me to now be on “this side” of all of that medical attention and treatment.
A priest-friend mentioned, sometime over the past twelve months, “you will never be the same as you were before; your body will be changed, and seemingly only for the worse, by the treatments. But you will survive. It’s as if you will have a chance to start over.” I have to admit that I was not always comfortable with the word “survivor,” but it is growing on me. I do not feel, however, like a survivor who made it to the top of the hill and planted a victorious flag. Instead, I feel more like a survivor who was in a shipwreck and got washed up on the shore, exhausted and wondering how he was spared. Perhaps with the passage of time I will feel more like the one who planted the victorious flag, but not today.
One of the most humbling and powerful things I will take away from all of this is my awareness of all the other people who are survivors, too, and those presently engaged in the struggle. I have jokingly told more than one doctor, “You’re taking all the fun out of having cancer!” Yes, the humor is dark, but it is also real – in that there is nothing fun about this. My heart goes out in a special way to those still engaged in the battle against cancer.
I have also become more aware that the same cancer ordeal that ravages the body can put us in a place so close to God that we can feel His presence in a new way, every moment. The same cancer that weakens and batters us can dissolve the barriers that could lie between us and our Creator. I have felt the everlasting arms of God around me and I have come to know anew that I am loved, cherished, and protected there – forever.
Although I have said this many times over the past twelve months, let me quote again from my dear Mom one more time: “This wouldn’t be a good time to drop me from your prayer list!” My surgeon re-worked my digestive system for the sake of healing, so I will have a follow-up surgery to “put things right.” That surgery is scheduled for March 4th, six weeks after today’s final chemo treatment. By then, hopefully, I will feel a lot more like the survivor who has made it to the top of the hill to plant the victorious flag – God willing! Together, let us pray.
Prayer to St. Peregrine, Patron of Cancer Patients
Glorious wonder-worker, St. Peregrine, you answered the divine call with a ready spirit. Forsaking all the comforts of the world, you dedicated yourself to God. You labored for the salvation of souls and, in union with Jesus, you endured the most painful sufferings with great patience. You were healed miraculously by a touch of His divine hand. Obtain for us, please, the grace to answer every call of God like you did and to fulfill His will in all the moments and events of our lives. Enkindle in our hearts consuming zeal for the salvation of others; deliver us from the infirmities that afflict our bodies.
Help us to be perfectly resigned to the sufferings that come our way. Help us to imitate the same Jesus who touched and healed you. Help us also imitate His Sorrowful Mother in the way we live with hope and in the way we long for eternal glory in heaven. St. Peregrine, pray for us and for all who invoke your aid today. Amen.