On solid ground again
(Testimony of a cancer healing - Lioba Radke, 20 years consecrated in the Catholic community ‘Koinonia John the Baptist’, has lived in Jerusalem since 2006)
Until now I knew of cancer only by hearsay. It is true that we have had brothers and sisters who have suffered from this disease, in particular Fr. Emanuele. However, I had never experienced this serious illness first hand. But all this changed unexpectedly this year.
Last autumn I began having some discomfort in my colon. Initially I blamed it on a haemorrhoid problem. I tried to treat myself on my own, for the simple reason that it is a body part that we do not like to talk about, let alone have examined. I managed to get my symptoms under control relatively successfully. However on the morning of Christmas Eve I had a severe haemorrhage. In shock, and rather worried, I finally went to the doctor. He gave me a cream and told me that I would need to have a colonoscopy in the future. Once again things went relatively well and so I was happy to have left with so little. I continued to have slight pain and mild discomfort but, because I was busy, I had no time to dwell on it or do anything about it.
Three months later, on Palm Sunday, I had a strong spontaneous haemorrhage for the second time. This time the bleeding continued with no sign of stopping. I went immediately to Accident and Emergency and to the GP the next day. The first available appointment for the specialist was six weeks later. At this point, the community decided to send me for further tests in Germany. I left on Easter Sunday, after the Mass of the Resurrection.
This was my situation. I was not sure what lay before me. I was in the Lord’s hands. On Easter Tuesday I had an appointment with a very good internist. In the light of the facts, she decided to send me for an urgent colonoscopy two days later. On the Friday of Easter week, which incidentally this year corresponded with Good Friday of the Orthodox Church, the doctor personally called me to her clinic. The diagnosis was colorectal cancer.
I was resigned to this. That morning I had read the letter of the apostle Paul to the Philippians: "I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit." (Phil 1:23-25)
I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.
- Phil 1:23-25
I immediately called my community in Israel to tell them the news. I knew that they would begin to pray. Before long our Generalate sent a circular letter to all the community of Koinonia John the Baptist to inform them of my health, and so a great chain of prayer began.
That same day the internist sent me to the oncology department. There, the chief oncologist was waiting for me. He very kindly explained the treatment that I had to face to me. It would be an operation to implant a port in the right breast, two weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy. The next day he told me that throughout his career as a doctor, he had never seen a person so peaceful in such a situation: "You must have trust in God," he said. The truth was that in this new and difficult situation, the Lord began to sustain me.
We were not sure how to organize my stay in Germany. We desired that a sister from the community would stay with me during my treatment. My parents did not have enough room in their apartment and, besides, my father had suffered from a stroke four years ago and was confined to a wheelchair. In no way did I want to be a burden. So the Lord, in His mercy, opened new doors. A sister wrote to me: she was waiting for a US visa and consequently was obliged to stay in Europe indefinitely. She offered to stay with me during the time of my treatment. At the same time I was put in touch with a community of nuns who had their convent only 200 meters from the hospital. They were willing to put an apartment at our disposal for the entire time of the treatment, and all this free of charge.
Following the operation for the port implant and the arrival of my sister, we moved into our “new apartment”. I felt encouraged. The doctors’ aim was complete healing through chemotherapy and radiation therapy, without having to have a colostomy. One of my doctors even talked of a remarkable 95% chance of complete healing.
I, the Lord, am your healer.
- Ex. 15:26
The following Monday I started both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was surprised how good I felt. But a few days later I had my first crisis. I began to suffer from nausea. The more serious issue was that the cancerous ulceration had grown further and was beginning to swell with the first sessions of radiotherapy. I was threatened with a bowel obstruction. To avoid the worst, the doctor prescribed me with strong laxatives. It seemed that nothing worked. I remember that I was in bed, crying. I felt so helpless and abandoned. I asked my sister to pray for me. When she put her hand on my head and began to pray, I felt a deep heat invade my whole body. My crying became more intense, and I realized that my inner tension was melting. I felt the Lord’s comfort that filled my heart. The words from the Bible sounded in my soul: "I, the Lord, am your healer." (Ex. 15:26) and "by his wounds we were healed" (Is. 53:5). Within a few minutes the intestinal blockage opened and I had an easy bowel movement, which thankfully remained the case for the duration of the treatment.
During the following weeks I lived through some difficult times that required patience and faith. The most difficult sentiment was that of helplessness, of not being able to control my own situation, combined with a real sense of abandonment. But the prayer of the community and of many friends supported me during the whole period of my illness.
I understand how the Lord used the disease to melt the hardness of my heart. I began to feel a deep sympathy for the people I met in the cancer ward: men and women of different ages, who were often much sicker than I was. I began to really appreciate the great gift of health, the gift of being able to enjoy good food and the tremendous grace of life. Every day I prayed, "Lord, let me live and be healthy".
Today, four months later, I am cancer free. The cancer has gone. The Lord is merciful and has turned my mourning into dancing. He gave me good doctors and many brothers and sisters who were close to me and have supported me during the period of the disease with their love and their prayers.
I want to conclude this testimony with a word from the first letter of St. Peter, given to me by a sister at the beginning of the treatment: "The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen." (1 Pt. 5,10-11)