Arlene Johns Columnist photo

Cancer – there’s probably not another word in the English language that evokes more feelings of fear and dread.

It certainly was not the word I wanted to hear my 87-year-old mother say when she called me a few months back following a conversation with her doctor.

“I just wanted to let you know the doctor says it is cancer,” she calmly told me.

I already was sitting down – at work in front of my computer, but suddenly it wasn’t nearly enough support.

Of course, we suspected that the large mass in her breast was cancer – it had advanced much too aggressively to be anything else.

But we held out hope that perhaps there was another explanation.

The phone call dashed that small glimmer of hope.

Mom went on to give me some “good” news. This was not the kind that is passed on to daughters.

I am sure that mattered to her, but I hardly cared. At that moment all I could think about was my mother suffering.

As much as possible, Mom always had taken our pain on herself.

Not long ago she reminded me of the time, long ago, when I badly burned my finger just prior to getting into the car for a long drive to visit relatives.

I had cried pretty much the whole way, she said, and she had cried along with me – holding my finger in a cup of cold water.

I had forgotten the whole thing but, despite the passage of many years, my mother still remembered the incident.

Now I wondered how I could possibly comfort her.

We pushed ahead, trying to put on a brave face in front of her.

We teased her about what her new anatomy would look like. But behind her back, we cried and planned for the worst.

Since I am an organizer – at home as well as at work – I did what I do best.

I created a calendar for her care.

A mother of seven living daughters and two daughters-in-law, Mom would get plenty of care – and company.

We were all given our duties on the calendar.

The day of the surgery arrived, and several of us crowded into the waiting room.

Dr. Gerard Garguilo and his staff were fantastic and the surgery, while extensive, went well.

About an hour later we were allowed to see our mother.

I hung back, expecting tubes and pain. But there was none of that.

Mom was alert and quickly asked for her glasses.

She was touched that so many of us had taken the day off to be there.

Her pain was minimal and she was hungry!

Later, when the doctor came by, we remarked at how well she was doing.

“You don’t get to be 87, and a mother of 10, without being tough,” he said.

She was home 24 hours later, and three days after that I had her out visiting friends and getting ice cream.

Always a very devout woman of faith, my mother asked God for health.

A recent survey found that the vast majority of Americans believe prayer can change medical outcomes. A large portion of physicians feel the same way.

And, while we didn’t expect or deserve a miracle, it seems we have received one.

The cancer appears to have been contained and no other organs seem to be affected.

She completed her weeks of radiation with no real problems and can expect a return to full health.

This month we honor the women (and men) who have endured breast cancer.

We also pay homage to the ones who devote their lives to finding a cure.

Those who have suffered with the disease, as well as those of us who cry along with them, appreciate their efforts.

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