by Lourdes Policarpio
There are life-changing moments for us all, when at the snap of a finger, life suddenly changes. For example, when you learn you are a millionaire by winning a lottery game – or at the other end , when you learn you have a dreaded ailment, like cancer. Ecstatic moments like winning the lottery are not really a test of the human spirit. But traumatic moments are. For example, the thought of being afflicted with a dreadful ailment can drive a person to negative emotions of bitterness and excessive anxiety – even despair. Without emotional and spiritual support, a person can crumble.
Everything started gradually enough for me. One day, I thought of having breast tests taken for me and my daughter Ria. We had been monitoring my daughter years ago for cystic masses and although she was cleared, I thought it was best to have a check up now. I could not remember our last breast exams. (I learned later it was one and a half years ago.) It must have been my guardian angel whispering to my ear, urging me to go and have these breast exams.
The results of my daughter’s breast ultrasound were normal – negative finding. But my mammogram results stated “sonographic correlation suggested for further evaluation of the focal density in the right breast”. Should I undertake ultrasound exams to find out? It seems I wasn’t really alarmed because looking back, it took more than a month before I would take the ultrasound tests. My mammogram was dated Feb. 6 while my ultrasound (breast sonogram) was dated March 18. But this time, the results of the ultrasound really got me worried. It stated my right breast was in the category of “intermediate suspicion for malignancy”.
I was worried and flabbergasted. My family did not have a history of breast cancer. In line with family history, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I would have a heart ailment or diabetes. But breast cancer was farthest my mind. Two tests would still have to be taken to determine the certainty of me having breast cancer. The time interval of around ten days during which I was not certain of having cancer or not was certainly a time of reflection, prayer, and anxiety.
I am already a daily Mass-goer but I added a second Mass on some days. My dawn prayers already included a chaplet of divine mercy for myself. Since I practice the devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus, I prayed to the Precious Blood of Jesus, the “healing Blood”, to heal me. But what prepared me well, I think, was a Prayer of Abandonment I learned from a good American priest, Fr. Charlie Prass, way back 1984 when my own daughter Ria was afflicted with degenerative brain ailment. (See box.) “Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will. Whatever You may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.”
This prayer meant that when the doctor hands down the certain diagnosis that I have breast cancer I would still thank God just the same. Not an easy thing really. But I tried hard to prepare for any eventuality. My husband was more optimistic until I told him, with difficulty, that I felt in my heart that the breast tissue would be malignant. Somehow there were things which happened before that prepared me for this.
Usually, during a critical moment you would like to be surrounded with relatives and friends who could comfort and strengthen you. My family was surely around me when I went to the breast surgeon for that fateful moment. But the breast surgeon said she would need still another test. And it was after that test when I learned – alone - that verdict which is like the Damocles sword coming down upon you.
I proceeded right to the Adoration Chapel from the hospital. I will remember the day well because it was also the sixth birthday of my eldest grandson. I did not cry a bucket! It was the birthday of my well-loved grandson, Juan Lorenzo, and there was going to be a dinner after the Mass which I should not spoil by silly hysterics or self-pity. I thought: who knows I am suffering for my little grandson whom I love so much? Years ago, when he had a seizure in SM Megamall, that was what drove me to near hysterics – running to our life-size statue of Mary Help of Christians in frantic prayers and agonizing cries followed by the rest of the household.
I pondered: what right did I have to pray to God that I would be spared of this? Two girls, who were with me in their childhood and youth in the church choir, had been afflicted with cancer. They are not even in their forties. I am 61 – well at an age where you should expect ailments. And since 1981 when I had a caesarean operation for my second child, I have not been hospitalized and I cannot even remember when I have been sick. It seems I have always been healthy! An ailment, whether minor or major, was certainly overdue!
But on one hand I was also terribly upset: I have a hectic schedule which includes a church apostolate. There were things entrusted to me which could not just be set aside because of an ailment. Oh Lord, I sighed, what happens to my schedule and my responsibilities?
A friend of mine who had been healed of another grave ailment through the intercession of St. Padre Pio, the stigmatist, gave me some blessed olive oil which had been touched with the glove and blood of St. Pio. I have had an extraordinary relationship with this saint. Way back 1983, when we were beseeching God for a miracle for my daughter Ria through the intercession of then Blessed Lorenzo Ruiz (the first Filipino martyr), Padre Pio suddenly came to the scene. His presence and aid were so strong that I thought he was also an intercessor for the cure of my daughter. Later, I realized he had a different role. It was through his inspiration that I was able to write down some unusual things that transpired in connection with our petition for the cure of my daughter. (Her case was eventually declared a third-degree miracle with the intercession of Lorenzo Ruiz and companion martyrs who were canonized subsequently.)
After that, Padre Pio somehow faded away from my life. Or maybe he did not like to “obscure” the role of San Lorenzo. But he had really helped me to write my account of Ria’s story. That account of mine is so unusual that I would not have written it without the intervention of Padre Pio.
With the blessed oil given to me, I thought: why not indeed pray for the intercession of Padre Pio? With much surprise I also realized that who else but this stigmatist saint who had the five wounds of Jesus in his body would be so closely affiliated with the Precious Blood devotion which I tried to pray daily and now I invoked for its healing powers. The Precious Blood devotion, you see, is a reflection and prayer to the five wounds of the Lord Jesus, the same wounds borne by Padre Pio for 50 years. The turn of events could not be just a “coincidence” but the Hand of God.
I would be operated on to remove the malignant tissue and to see if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. I beseeched God to please send somebody to be with me, whether my guardian angel, Our Lady, or any heavenly spirit. But it seems God is always a step ahead as I realized He had already sent Padre Pio.
The confinement in the hospital would be two nights and I prayed for and got a date that was not detrimental to my church apostolate.
The original schedule for my operation was 1pm but the actual operation took place around 5:30 pm. I had to wait for three hours in a “waiting room” – alone and without even a Rosary, since it was not allowed. I feel the delay was really Divine Providence at work since I had three hours to pray and reflect.
What were my thoughts? As I was being wheeled to the operating room, I remembered the very comforting and loving words of the Father in Heaven in the “Book of Truth”. This is a much-attacked and much-maligned book but ironically enough, the words gave me hope. I told myself that no, the Father in Heaven who loves His children so much does not like all this suffering in the world. We are not meant for this – He loves us so much. In that book, the Lord Jesus says His Second Coming is very near and this Second Coming will be followed by a New Era where God’s faithful followers will enjoy a New Paradise on Earth. Let me quote so it is clearer:
You, children of this generation, will be given the gift of living in the Paradise, even more beautiful than that prepared for Adam and Eve. Age will be non-existent, as man will live in peace with families of generations. So much love and enjoyment will be an everyday occurrence. Finally you will be accorded true lasting peace in your souls.
Why would this not be possible? This is the earth that was planned by My Father whose Divine Will, will be at last finally realized on earth as it is in Heaven. Rejoice all of you. The New Paradise is to be welcomed with excitement and anticipation. There will be no death, no illness, no sin. You will be given the gift of eternal happiness. (Message from the Lord Jesus, February 24, 2012)
The rantings and incoherent thoughts of a sick woman (me!)? Well, maybe. However, it should be noted also that the Lord Jesus’ exhortation that the Second Coming is near and we should be prepared is also found in other seers like the very credible Fr. Stefano Gobbi of the Marian Movement of Priests, Vassula Ryden (A Greek Orthodox mystic), the children and youth in Rwanda, among others. If you go over the Diary of St. Faustina, you will realize that the devotion to the Divine Mercy was given by the Lord Jesus as a preparation for the “Day of Justice” when He comes to judge everyone. I have even discovered books of interior locutions by a Filipina wherein the Lord Jesus repeatedly tells her His Second Coming is near. This particular book has an introduction by the late Fr. James Reuter, S.J.
I had been hoping that I would enter the gates of this New Paradise – without having to die a physical death first. Who knows?!
The nursing attendant, informing me of the delay in my operation, smilingly told me to pray. I intended to pray all the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary. Since any objects, including a Rosary, are not allowed, I had to rely on my fingers and therefore had to concentrate on the Mysteries otherwise I would lose track. I really tried hard to focus and when I had reached the fourth Glorious Mystery, I remembered my breast tissue had been adjudged as malignant. I then found myself in a dilemma: should I ask God for a longer life? The saints would ask for the grace to suffer more for the Lord. But I am not made of the saintly, heroic stuff! So I had prayed for something else – that this ailment will be for God’s greater glory. It was then I felt Our Lady interceding for me as I asked God to be given more time to do the things I had to do in the apostolate. Among others, there was a book I had to write – the account of my daughter Ria’s story which had been inspired by Padre Pio.
You may not believe me but I felt there and then my beloved Mother in Heaven telling me that “the cancer has not spread”. I felt so light-hearted after that.
In the operating room, I must have been praying all my favourite ejaculations or playing in my head what I would be playing for the Easter Vigil Mass. (I play the organ for the Easter Vigil Mass in our parish.) The music in my head really soothed and entertained me!
The breast surgeon visited me very early the next morning. She conveyed the good news that the cancer had not yet spread to my lymph nodes. It was a confirmation of what I felt Our Lady told me prior to the operation. I felt so happy – not simply that the cancer had not spread but more so, that Our Lady, to whom I have entrusted my life (Totus Tuus Maria/Totally Yours Mary) was indeed with me.
I reflected: what is this illness about? To me, a strong reminder and mandate from the Lord that I should now start what I had been considering as my projects and activities during my “twilight years”.
The entry of St. Padre Pio into my life in such a decisive way is I think a mandate from the Lord to share the story of daughter Ria who had degenerative brain ailment way back 1982 and was cured with the intercession of San Lorenzo Ruiz and companion martyrs. It is one story I would rather keep to myself. To share it with others, to put it into print – this is quite an effort which I would not be able to sustain without a strong sign from the Lord that I have to go on - write and share. What a strong sign the Lord has given me! Such a mandate which I cannot just ignore.
In addition to this, there are other things I have in mind, like a compilation of Marian stories for the young. If you have been following our “Totus Tuus Maria” magazine, you would have realized by now that it is “gone”. Yes, we have put an end to it; my time just cannot accommodate it anymore. I have not written since the last issue but it seems God wishes me to continue writing and sharing.
More than 30 years ago, when I was still single, my American boss then, upon his retirement, asked me what I would be doing in my own retirement years. I answered him instantaneously,
“Write my memoirs!” Laughing, he replied, “You’d better have something to write about.” At 61 years now, yes, I have lots and lots to write. This breast cancer is like a wake up call from the Lord to – write, write, write!
After the operation, I was instructed to see the breast surgeon a week after for the results. That interval coincided with Holy Week and so I had time to pray, reflect, and most of all, prepare our choir for the Easter Vigil Mass.
That appointment with the breast surgeon was another important moment as I would know if the cancer I have is aggressive and what treatment I would have. The appointment was set on Monday, the day after Easter Sunday.
I will always look back to that Monday as an important milestone in my life. The breast surgeon said the cancer is not aggressive, it was smaller compared to what was seen in the mammogram, and the surrounding breast tissue was not affected. Therefore I will not need chemotherapy, only radiation. She classified my ailment as stage one – stage four is the gravest. Smiling broadly, she said the results of my operation were “very good”. I told her I prayed hard. “You prayed well”, she said. Upon leaving, she asked me one thing which had worried me, “Did you play during the Easter Vigil Mass?” I replied, “Oh yes, definitely!”
As I left her, the music of “Hallelujah” by Handel, which our choir sang during the Easter Vigil Mass, sounded like a thousand bells in my mind. I had undergone a Lenten pilgrimage. But today…. today – “it is really Easter”!
Prayer of Abandonment
By Charles de Foucauld
I abandon myself into your hands;
Do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
And in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You
With all the love of my heart,
For I love You, Lord,
And so need to give myself,
To surrender myself into your hands,
And with boundless confidence.
For You are my Father.
The Second Coming of Christ will take place in your lifetime.
According to this book which contains a series of incredible messages and prophecies to an Irish seer, our present generation will witness the Second Coming of Christ.
Click here to read a book review that summarises the key messages of the book.
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