It’s been almost four weeks since my last post. Much has transpired since then and it’s been a roller coaster of emotions at times. In The Other Side of Prayer Requests, I left you hanging with the news that someone special to me had been diagnosed with a disease that would require surgery the next day, and that I had asked friends and family to pray for us. I probably should not have been quite so vague but I suppose I was holding on to that last shred of privacy. The rest of the story eventually came out when I replied to comments posted by friends. In case you missed that thread, that special someone was my wife, Melinda, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a lumpectomy on 24 July, our thirty-first wedding anniversary.
Ever since she was diagnosed on 31 May, I had been praying for her healing harder than I had ever prayed for anything in my short history of praying. Although the lump was small, we didn’t know if the cancer may have spread or if it was localized. My biggest fear was that cancer cells would be found in her lymph nodes, indicating a spread that would require chemotherapy. So, when I asked others, or they offered, to pray for her, I asked specifically for prayers that no cancer would be found in her lymph nodes. Personally, I prayed that when the final pathology report came back they would find no cancer at all and she would be pronounced “cancer-free”.
In spite of my praying, both Melinda and I had an uncanny feeling of optimism, that everything was going to be alright, that all the prayers being registered on her behalf from a legion of experienced prayer warriors were being heard. As I mentioned, we had “a confident assurance from an entire faith community who seemed to be saying they had inside information.” I also took comfort in a passage from a book of daily reflections by St. Augustine:
“Be assured that all your diseases will be healed. Have no fear. You may say that your diseases are powerful; but this physician is more powerful. There is no disease that the Almighty Physician cannot cure. Just allow yourself to be healed and do not reject His healing hands. He knows what He is doing.” – Commentary on Psalm 72
So, cutting to the chase, Melinda had her surgery on Wednesday and the early report was there was no cancer found in the lymph nodes, nor in the marginal tissue around the tumor. But, we had to wait until the following Monday before the official pathology report was completed. That was a long and anxious five days. On Monday we received the news that, indeed, no cancer was found in her lymph nodes, nor the marginal tissue around the tumor…. and none in the tumor itself! This was precisely what I had been praying for. Praise God!
My intention with this post is not for it to be a play by play of my wife’s surgery. Rather, it is a testament to the power of Christian Community. It is difficult for me to describe the way we felt about the tremendous support, caring and prayers we received during this ordeal. There is no doubt in my mind we would have been unable to sustain such strong confidence, such unwavering faith in the healing power of prayer had we gone it alone and not reached out to our community of friends and family, people who care for and love us, and asked them for their prayers. The outpouring of love and the demonstration of faith from everyone gave us something special – it gave us hope. And, I believe, it was this powerful combination of practicing the three theological virtues that brought about the miracle of a clean and cancer-free diagnosis for Melinda.
I had heard witnesses about Christian Community from men on the Christ Renews retreats on which I had been. But, especially for someone like me who is new to this life, you don’t know what you don’t know until your eyes are opened by a personal experience. I witnessed so many examples of love and caring I feel compelled and obligated to mention some of them:
To all those who prayed with an intensity honed by years of practice that I can only hope to achieve one day; to those who went the extra mile and sacrificed and fasted on Melinda’s behalf, who prayed Rosaries and Novenas specifically for the two of us, I give you my utmost gratitude.
We had a promising indication that all would be well when the surgeon surprised us and asked us to pray with him for healing and for God to guide him during the procedure.
I was overwhelmed with the caring and love expressed by so many asking how Melinda’s surgery went and how she was recovering. It was honest, look-you-straight-in-the-eye concern followed by sincere hugs borne of relief. Your love was truly felt by both of us.
To Melinda’s sister, Carol, who traveled from Texas to be here for both moral and physical support for Melinda, our daughter Grace, and me, many thanks, you were a God-send.
A special group of people took it upon themselves to unselfishly prepare dinners for us during the two weeks between Melinda’s surgery and the completion of her two-a-day radiation treatments. Thank you all for the plentiful and delicious meals, they were wonderful and so welcome! I still plan to hit you up for the recipes.
For someone who is both unfamiliar and uncomfortable with receiving so much love and assistance from others I have been totally humbled by the overwhelming support and encouragement to open up and share my emotions instead of keeping them bottled up inside me. Your prayers not only helped heal Melinda, they also healed me.
One thing that helped me open up and receive this kindness was understanding and acceptance of another bit of advice given by St. Augustine:
“For when we are harassed by poverty, saddened by bereavement, ill, or in pain, let good friends visit us. Let them be persons who not only can rejoice with those who rejoice but can weep with those who weep. Let them be persons who know how to give useful advice and how to win us to express our own feelings in conversation. – (Letter 130)
To close, please accept mine and Melinda’s gratitude for your gifts of prayer for her healing. And, specifically from me, please know my appreciation for your example of Christian Community by showing this neophyte how to shine the Light of Hope as suggested by our Lord, Jesus Christ:
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:13-16
God Bless you and thank you for being our Light of Hope.