Her name was Mary and I was an 18-year-old student nurse. That early morning in March, 1968, when I was first assigned to be her care-giver for the day, I felt a knot deep inside my stomach. I had heard so much about Mary and I was terrified.
You may think it is because she was a difficult and demanding patient. You may surmise that she was at death’s door and likely to pass at any given time….But Mary was the bravest woman I have ever met in my entire life!
Mary was full of cancer and in the 1960’s all too often there was no hope. We knew she would die of this horrid disease but it seemed, at that time, as though she would be with us forever. She was dying, yes, but oh so slowly and ever so painfully. To make matters worse…..
Well, let me tell you first why I was so terrified. I was told that she was a quiet old lady but so filled with cancer and infection that she had to be in Isolation. In that small hospital, the Isolation Ward was dark and dreary but what was probably the most frightening for us students was the horrible smell and the ugliness of the rotting flesh. I shan’t describe it any further than that. Because we had to gown up and wear masks etc., I gathered all I would need before entering her room so that I could clean her and change her dressings without having to go out for additional supplies. Mary was blind and she was frail. She had a small voice despite her big heart. I could tell that she craved company, being alone all the time like that. Sadly no one visited and certainly no one (myself included) just stopped in to chat. It was painful to be there and I was, like most of my fellow students, a coward. Still I tried my best to be loving and gentle with her. When I had to remove her dressings, I could have cried but what still, to this day, makes my heart stir, is that though she was trembling in severe, agonizing pain, all she did was whisper, “Thank you Jesus; thank you Jesus” I could not believe the faith of this poor woman; I didn’t understand then that we truly can cast all our cares on Him. But Mary taught me about that the very first day. I recall vividly that when I had finished doing her dressings and seeing to her other needs, I left that room a totally different person than when I had entered it. Still, though her faith touched me, I hated to be assigned to her because it was so very difficult. In the three years I was in training (Nursing School), Mary was there and I often wondered why God waited so long to ‘take her home’ but now I realize that perhaps it was so that she could be a testimony of Great Faith and Love to so many of us young students! Mary was grateful for every little thing that any of us did for her. I know I could have done far more and I still regret my immaturity in this regard. It probably wasn’t until I myself was going through a battle with bi-lateral breast cancer myself over 10 years ago that I began to understand how Mary could, during her pain and suffering, thank Jesus. You see, I experienced His loving arms about me when I was at my worst. I knew that He held Mary close to His heart each and every day. Looking back now, I believe He was there with us in that dark room.
I fully believe that when I walk through the gates of heaven into eternity one day, one of the first people I will see is a glorified and rejoicing Mary. For I know that “our” Savior has gathered her into Paradise with Him. All her tears and suffering have been removed from her forever!
Thank You, Mary!
When I say I am a Breast Cancer Survivor, most people congratulate me. Hey, hey, hey……I didn’t do anything really. I mean what could I do? I suppose people imply that I was a fighter but in all honesty, it was not a battle I chose. In fact, I did very little fighting. I was in “getting by one day at a time mode” but more importantly, I was in a “trusting” mode. I completely and totally HAD to put all my trust in God. Oh yes, in fairness, I placed myself in the hands of excellent Doctors and Nurses and a hospital that was second to none. But even these professionals lose patients all the time. For surely even they know that ultimately they are not in control. They must know that there is someone with far more power than all their learned selves who draws a line in the sands of time. I know that Almighty God had a specific plan for me. Indeed I believe He does for every one of us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, well, that is another thing. But I told Jesus the day I was diagnosed, “I want you to use me to touch someone else’s life and hopefully draw them to you, Lord” I meant it from the bottom of my heart then and I meant it through all the months of treatments. I meant it when I was afire with radiation burns; I meant it through horrid chemotherapy treatments. I meant it the first time I had to be hospitalized with pneumonia and even the second time but I was close that night to saying too much. What I did say as my husband was leading my weakened and feverish body out the door was, “Someone HAD better be getting ‘saved’ by all this Lord!” He knew I was about at my limit and He guided me through that bout of suffering. When my pneumonia was starting to get under some sort of control and I awoke in that lonely hospital bed to a mouth full of wretched painful sores (from the chemotherapy) I allowed the tears to flow. That was the last straw or so I thought. Was I brave? Not really. I was surviving. When they found cancer in the second breast, I paused and with tears flowing again, I said to my husband, “Just maybe this IS my time to die…” He turned away before he cried and shook his head. He was not ready to give up. He was fighting for me. He carried my burden bravely. He was there for me every moment of every day. When he couldn’t be physically there, he made sure my daughter was there. When I couldn’t be with my youngest daughter when she began her first year of University abroad, he brought along her Godfather in support. He led the family through this battle in such a way that I feel he deserved a medal of honor. All my children pulled together and supported me and each other. My ten brothers and sisters were in constant prayer. One brother flew over 4000 miles to spend time with me. I was loved and cherished and surrounded by prayer. Friends were on their knees.
I must describe one night in particular for you. With my blood count so depleted by the ongoing chemotherapy, I had to have injections daily for ten days after each chemotherapy session. The injection itself was extremely painful and just before i plunged the needle into my stomach, I held my breath and prayed. But what was to come was far worse. The medication worked deep within the bone marrow to stimulate white blood cell growth. As a result, all my bones were excruciatingly painful. I could barely walk. I was in constant pain. I could not stand the feel of the sheets touching me. I had to keep anyone from touching me. I was to ward off my precious grandchildren. I hobbled about with a walking stick and grasping onto my husband’s arm for support. One night as I gingerly made my way into bed, I began to softly cry. The pain was close to unbearable. As I lay there trying to get comfortable and ready to try to sleep, I silently cried to the Lord, “Help me please” It was then that Ray crept closer to me and with the most gentle touch ever, he slowly and lovingly gathered me into his loving arms. He held me and loved me and cherished me and I knew it was the touch of the “Master”. I closed my eyes and knew that I was held in His loving arms.
Praise be to God.
I have been cancer free for over ten years now.
Congratulations to Ray Medeiros, my loving husband. And thank you to Jesus Christ my precious Savior!