I’ve heard those words ever since I remember. My mother often articulated them. I’ve heard them from the pulpit; I have heard them on many occasions, all my life, from so many people. But they hardly had any impact on me. But when Dr. Joe uttered them on that terrible day, they didn’t bounce off me as they always did. Instead, they pierced through the armour of despair and fear which had gripped me ; they pierced and made a slow but steady entry into my very thought process, and eventually doused that smouldering fear which had been showing signs of flaring up into an all consumig flame.
It was a Monday, I remember. Dr. Saji came into my room with Sunny. One look at their faces and I knew all was not well. Saji came up to me and said that he had to be away for a few days but had made arrangements for further investigation. He then bade me good bye and turned to go.
I stretched out my hand and caught him by the wrist. “I prefer to know”, I said. “Don’t keep me in the dark”.
He explained. He tried to sound as positive as he could. And then he left. Stunned and distressed by the news that the tumour in the iliac bone was a secondary growth, I lay in the hospital bed with my eyes closed. I didn’t want Sunny and Annu to see the misery in them. Soon, I began to feel drowsy. The hangover of anasthesia.
So the primary culprit is lurking somewhere, I remember thinking before drifting off to sleep.
I woke up an hour later. It was then that the full implication of the pathogy report hit me – like a ton of bricks. Where is the primary growth, I wondered in a panic. In those dreadful moments, I realized that fear is not just a mental state. It is a very physical experience. From somewhere in the pit of my stomach, it rose like a burning sensation which spread rapidly through my whole being, making me feel weak and listless. I was in this terrible state when Dr. Joe came to visit me. His wife was my relative. Joe himself was my colleague’s son.
“What have I done to deserve this?” I asked him. I don’t as a rule indulge in such sentiments, but Dr. Joe had come in before I could regain my equilibrium after the blow.
“It has nothing to do with deserving, aunty”, he said. “It’s all part of God’s Plan”.
I looked at him with all the resentment I felt against the Almighty in my eyes.
Seeing my expression he said gently but earnestly, “ Nothing happens without HIS knowledge”.
To date, I believe that is the precise moment that my recovery began. That clichéd quotation, all on a sudden, ceased to be a cliché, and became so loaded with meaning that it became my refuge and protection, and kept my spirits from sagging when assailed by dark fears and doubts.
I honestly do not know what I would have done without my God beside me. He was there all the time. There were times during the period of treatment when I was unspeakably tired and listless, and used to move in and out of disturbed sleep which gave no rest to the mind or body. On many such occasions, He came in different forms to revive my spirits. Sometimes it was in the form of my sisters-in-law Maye, Mini or Lee whom, in my dazed condition, I used to find sitting by me reading out prayers or novenas, or reciting the Rosary.
On another occasion, His healing touch came through the person of my eldest brother who had come to spend some time with me. I was grappling with nausea and intense fatigue. “I can’t even pray ”, I confided in him.
“Be still and know I am your God”, he quoted from the Psalm 46. It is strange and amazing how that oft quoted words had such a recuperative effect on me. I turned those words over and over in my mind and drifted off to a very peaceful slumber from which I woke up feeling fresh!
Now I know why most of the miracles of Christ were in the form of healing. For it is sickness that sends man knocking at heaven’s gate. It is sickness that makes man feel that he is dealing with something that is not within his control. All other human problems fade into insignificance when placed beside a disease that can kill. That’s when the atheist and the agnostic decide to turn to God as a last resort.
That’s when a believer experiences the steadying hands of her Faith in a power superior to anything humans can aspire to become. Faith kindles hope, which in turn, translates itself into strength, courage, and the determination to fight the killer disease.
As I lay on the hospital bed during the three hour chemo infusion, quotes that were stored in my mind de frosted themselves and kept reverberating in my mind, keeping me cheerful and “chirpy” (a la sunny). Of course the quotes were usually not correct, word for word, but many combined to convey the same truth. “Neither poultice nor physicians My Lord, but your word alone can heal me”. “If I should walk in the darkness, I shall not fear, for you are with me, Lord”, I silently repeated to myself before each surgery till I slipped into the unconscious state.
Deep inside me was a confidence that my God will heal me. Believe it or not, this gives birth to a new faith in the regenerative power of one’s own body, of its power to heal itself.