LAST week my daughter Elizabeth had her final chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
In the hospital oncology treatment unit, I looked at my beautiful daughter hooked up to the drip which pumped the toxic chemicals into her body and thought about the last six months.
Does anyone ever expect to be diagnosed with cancer? I think not. Least of all my lovely daughter who, at 19 years old, was a university student and a part-time model, as well as working at Target at night and on weekends.
When Elizabeth found a lump on her neck and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 4, we were understandably shocked and distressed. However, the oncologist assured us it was ‘fixable’. Our family pinned our hopes on this statement, as well as relying on our Catholic faith to see us through this difficult time.
In times of crisis, it becomes obvious that God sends help in the form of support from family and friends. We were also inundated with messages and prayers from the All Hallows’ community where Elizabeth attended school, and from our parish of St Dympna’s at Aspley.
Last year, our aunt, Sr Michael Mary Mahon (Aunty Nell), a Sister of Mercy, died at Emmaus Aged Persons Home in Nudgee, aged 94. To our family, she was known as the ‘Intensive Prayer Department’, as we always asked her to pray for our children’s success in high school and university exams and for any family needs we had.
We called in Aunty Nell to pray for Elizabeth as she had never prayed before. Aunty Nell had spent a large portion of her life at Holy Cross Convent, Wooloowin. Both communities of Mercy Sisters at Wooloowin and Emmaus have spent the last six months having Masses said and keeping up the prayers for Elizabeth’s full recovery. We contacted the Carmelite Nuns at Ormiston to pray for Elizabeth. Anglican and Lutheran friends joined in the prayers for her recovery.
My husband Len has a business colleague, Jerry, in the USA. When he heard of Elizabeth’s illness, he emailed us with messages of prayer and support. Jerry is a staunch Baptist, so we received a lot of e-mails from members of his faith community, telling us that God would not let us down in our hour of need.Elizabeth also received prayergrams from many Baptists across several states in America. One was from a young woman who was in remission from breast cancer. She sent us the comforting message, ‘Medicine works wonders, but God works miracles’. One letter informed us that the prayer circles had extended to Baptist missionaries in Papua New Guinea.What a wonderful exercise in ecumenism – people united in faith across the globe to ask God to heal Elizabeth.
Elizabeth herself impressed all of us with her faith, acceptance and bravery. She endured several operations, many scans and countless needles. When I pointed out to her that there were people across several continents praying for her recovery, she said, ‘Perhaps that is why God sent this to me, so that more people would pray to Him’.
The six months of treatment left Elizabeth with several physical scars from operations, as well as the loss of her beautiful long hair. Twelve chemotherapy treatments took their toll, but Elizabeth kept a positive attitude which inspired us all.
Never at any stage did we feel there was no hope. God always seemed to be nearby, especially during the times when Elizabeth was really ill.
Now Elizabeth and all of our family face the future. The oncologist has said the prognosis is good. Thanks to the wonders of medical science and to the power of prayer, Elizabeth is in remission. She will have to be monitored very closely by the doctors for a while because the cancer can re-occur.
Once again, we are turning to God and pinning our faith on the fact that our beautiful daughter will remain cancer free and live a long and happy life.