If Prayer Healed a Body
If prayer healed a body, then I would be healed. If hope kept young women from dying of breast cancer, they wouldn’t be dying. Every woman with young children and breast cancer is doing everything within her power to survive for her babies. Every woman who has just given birth and within weeks or months been diagnosed with breast cancer is appealing to God and the Devil to save her life so that she can nurture her baby. And the women who are simultaneously growing babies in their bodies and cancer in their breasts; they have fervent wishes to stay alive to bring forth the lives that depend on their every breath, every heartbeat.
We are trying. We are praying. We have been hoping. We have done everything. And we will continue to do what we can, until we can’t. Yesterday a woman named Holley died. I never met her. She was 42, like me. She had metastatic disease, like I do. She was trying to stay alive until her youngest child’s fifth birthday, and she missed by two weeks. A four-year-old and his brother lost their mommy yesterday. People tell you not to give up. But the body does eventually give up, and no hoping or praying is going to change that.
I have been lucky to experience a long period of no disease progression. So lucky. And I am aware every moment that it all can change in an instant because I have terminal cancer. When I let that sink in, and I think about the breadth and depth of the experience of this particular life that I am living, I feel like bursting. Sometimes it’s more than I can hold, and I have to remember that I don’t have to hold it all the time, I can let it go and somehow carry on.
Last Sunday I was helping Grace get her outfit ready for her first formal dance. We went to her grandma’s house and she tried on some hand-me-down gowns that a friend gave me, along with some sparkly shoes we bought. When she picked the perfect gown, she modeled a few necklace and earring sets that her grandma wanted to loan her. We had fun watching her twirl and look like the fancy version of herself. I saw her look at herself in the mirror, and I
imagined that she is starting to see herself as the woman she is growing into.
She changed back into her regular clothes, and we packed up the shoes, the pashmina, the gowns, and placed the jewelry that she had selected into an ornate jewelry pouch for safe keeping. We walked to the car under the blue sky punctuated only by the sun, and as we got inside she said something that has broken me open ever since.
“I’m glad you are here to do this with me, Mom.”
Nothing could more aptly capture what it means for me and my children to be living this experience than that statement. It’s a blessing to see the blessings of the moments, yes, and it’s a deep darkness to know the other side is always there.
My prayer is different now. Praying to stay alive seems futile, and thereby small in the sight of immense depth. Instead, I pray that I remember to see every moment.