Karen was a cancer patient. She was diagnosed in her mid-50’s with Bladder Cancer. She was advised that she had about 18 months to live – the cancer had metastasized to other areas beyond the bladder. Like many patients Karen surrendered herself to fighting the cancer with her whole being. This meant not only committing to the treatment, but also relying on her faith and a relentless belief in the power of prayer.
Karen lived 13 years beyond her 18 month prognosis. During a visit to MD Anderson, doctors told Karen that they did not understand why she was alive given the presentation of her disease. Karen responded that it was the power of prayer that was keeping her going. Her belief in this was unwavering. She repeatedly heard from family and friends about the network of prayers being offered for her intention. Karen prayed daily for the people praying for her and she offered her suffering for those who suffered more. When treatments were no longer stalling the disease, Karen halted the treatments, but she vigorously continued her prayers. Her treatments left her with limited use of her hands, but her palm cross fit perfectly in her grasp and it brought great comfort to her.
She held it throughout the day and night. The cross was a reminder to her that God was with her every minute of the day. When Karen’s body finally did give in to her illness, she was holding tightly to the cross she loved. It was only fitting that she should take her last breath holding it. Most who knew her would say that she indeed had a very difficult “cross” to carry, but she carried it with grace in a remarkably quiet manner.
There are many people who are facing daunting medical challenges. In the midst of so many appointments, procedures, and treatments, it seems almost impossible to find inner peace. In thinking about the way Karen held her cross, we are reminded that everyone has some kind of cross to carry through life. We are reminded also, how important it is for us to turn to God when the cross becomes difficult to carry. For some, just holding the cross is in itself a prayer.
It is our hope that others holding their palm crosses will find peace and comfort like Karen. May it inspire all of us to pray for others, knowing that we are being prayed for in return.