On February 4th, 1982, I was diagnosed with cancer. Back then, there was no cure for my type of cancer. There was, however, an experimental treatment program, which I entered the next day. Fortunately, after one year of treatment, I was in remission. After 10 years in remission, I became a first generation survivor of Leukemia.
It was after this decade had passed that my doctor met with me and told me that there were six others in the study that had also survived. He then humbly admitted that since so many in the program had passed away, he and his colleagues did not believe that it was the medicine alone that had cured us. That is when the doctors began to look at other factors that we patients had in common that could possibly explain why the seven of us had survived. What they discovered was we had several things in common aside from the medicine – strong faith in God, tremendous support from family and friends, a positive attitude, and a ‘fighting’ instinct. This became the hospital’s new formula for survival. They began support groups and started teaching patients mind-body techniques.
At the time (and for many years after), I thought to myself, I didn’t need my doctor to explain to me why I had survived. I already knew it was because of God. At times, I felt like a story from the Gospel where Jesus says to the infirmed, “Your faith has healed you.” Did I shout it from the rooftops like those who were healed in the Gospel? Unfortunately, no. While my family and friends were reveling in the miracle that had happened to me, I was scared. I didn’t know what being cured by God would mean for me and the life I had ahead of me. I also didn’t know what I could do for God that would be “enough.” How could I possibly express my gratitude for the tremendous blessing of a longer life on Earth with my family and friends?
Many years later, when little Christina was diagnosed, I was convinced that this “magic” formula of faith, family and attitude would cure her. I told her mom, Monica, not to worry. I was convinced that Christina had all she needed to survive this terrible disease – good doctors, strong faith, tremendous support from family and friends, and a positive attitude. What I didn’t realize at the time was that God hadn’t given me a “magic” formula that would spare those I loved from death. In actuality, He had taught me how to live through life’s challenges.
Life can be very challenging and, at times, pretty scary. That’s why the most common phrase in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” God wants us to know that no matter what happens, He is with us every step of the way. Whether we remain here on Earth or go to God is completely up to God. What matters most is what we do here on Earth with the one life we’ve been given. We can accomplish far more if we put our trust in God and fully collaborate with Him in the ordinary course of our daily living.
Now that we’ve said goodbye to a very challenging year, let’s say, “Hello” to this new year in a completely different way. Take a hard look at your life. Don’t look at it in terms of “enough;” instead, look at your life in terms of faith, family, friends, and attitude. After all, when all of these things are firmly rooted in your life, you can live joyfully through any crisis – even COVID-19. Happy 2021!
Deb Egan grew up in a Catholic family. Throughout her adult life, she has participated as a church volunteer in many capacities, including teaching Religious Education, being a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, Ministering to the elderly and homebound, and Facilitating Small Faith Groups. She has been trained by Evangelical Catholic and became a member of the Build the Faith Team in April of 2017.