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It Takes a Village

I find myself thinking that in all things, it takes a village. No man happily stands alone, no matter how independent he may profess to be. But in times of crisis, it is that very same idea that brings us comfort, gives new meaning to the idea of friendship and affection and support. When we are surrounded by the love and kindness of others, it provides a sort of scaffolding, holding us up when we are unable to stand on our own, reminding us that we are our brother’s keeper.

I never quite understood the remarkable power of collective prayer until now. Yes, I had willingly participated, offering pleas to God on behalf of family and friends, but I had never been the recipient of such a spiritual campaign. Until now. It warmed my heart to receive messages from people who had requested prayer on my behalf from friends and religious groups all over the country. I felt humbled that people would pray for me, a stranger. But more importantly, I drew strength from it, as I grew spiritually. Those prayers, assured me that I was not alone, that my life and well-being mattered. Love, the most powerful force on earth, lifted me. What a precious, beautiful gift.

So I share the rest of my story in gratitude.

I had my post op appointment this week. I sat in that same dimly lit waiting room in the all-too-uncomfortable chair, waiting for my turn. As I had so many times before, I had brought along a current beauty magazine and absentmindedly flipped through the pages. It really seemed rather funny to be reading articles about hairstyles, when mine is practically nonexistent or makeup tips, when this disease has tested my vanity like nothing else has. Perhaps I unconsciously viewed it as holding on to the last bit of normal in a life which seems so out of my control.

And then, it was my turn to be called. The doctor was in to see me faster than I expected. I was happy to see him. There is a closeness that occurs between a surgeon and his patients, I think, for all of the obvious reasons. I am particularly fond of mine. He prays with me, remember?

After the examination, he pronounced that I was healing well. I knew that. My recovery has been swift and quite amazing. And then, he went over the pathology report, the surgical findings. It was my much-anticipated moment of truth. I held my breath as he began reviewing point by point where the cancer was and how it was removed. Areas that had been cancerous prior to chemo were less so upon examination. He smiled as he told me that my surgery and response to treatment were ideal. I believe the words he used were “textbook case.” I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving.

And then he said this: “I have every reason to believe that you are one of those rare individuals who will be cured.”

He said “cured.” I made him repeat it since it is not a descriptor used for somebody with Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Two of the nurses came into the room to congratulate me. For a brief moment, I expected balloons to fall from the ceiling. And honestly, for the first time in five months, the hope I had held felt very real. And anything seemed possible. I thought back to the day of my diagnosis, when a different doctor gave me a few months to live, told me to get my affairs in order. Thankfully, I never accepted my dismal prognosis. And two weeks later, when I met with this man, my surgical oncologist, for the first time, I asked him about that timeline. In his wise way, he had simply replied, “I don’t know. I am not God.” I remember exhaling loudly at that pronouncement, which reminded me who really is in charge. Truly.

And so, he ended this follow–up visit with another prayer and an outline of the next step. I am to have 18 weeks of chemo to kill any remaining cells, including several tumors on my colon. I did the mental calculation. That’s over four months. And no, I am not looking forward to the ongoing assault on my body, the nausea and fatigue and pain, the possible complications. But there is life at the end of this fight. And I intend to live it.

Please know that this is not my miracle. It belongs to all of you. If you whispered a prayer on my behalf, you became a stakeholder, partnering with God to affect a healing that defies all of the odds. And here is where words escape me. There are no superlatives, nothing I can possibly write to express my gratitude to all of you for taking a moment to think of me, to care enough to whisper a plea on my behalf. Our Lord is good. Always. And forgive me for selfishly asking that you continue to pray for me as my journey continues.

God bless you all. Truly.

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