Mr. Clyde King, the steady sacristan at my parish here in northern California approached me one day after Mass last year, asking if perhaps I could fill in for him for about ten days. He might be going out of town, though this was not yet assured; he wanted to line someone up, with plenty of notice, just in case.
He was planning, or rather hoping, to go to Lourdes; he has been battling melanoma since 2009. He had had one surgery to remove a tumor from his left temple, and another one in late 2010 to remove three more tumors just beneath his jaw line. Aside from that procedure, which excised a portion of his neck along with the cancer, no one would have any reason to suspect he’d had a brush with a life-threatening illness. He looked sturdy and walked strong. His vigor was such that I was surprised to learn he was over sixty-five. And for the moment, all the melanoma had been removed.
Still, he put in an application to join an annual pilgrimage sponsored by the Knights of Malta, who take malades – pilgrims who are sick enough to qualify but well enough to travel. Not every applicant, of course, can be accommodated, and he was put on the waiting list. He responded with equanimity, saying simply that Mary will decide who ends up going.
Soon afterwards, the radiologist called and somberly informed him that a routine follow up PET scan revealed the presence of yet another and severe (stage 4 melanoma) tumor – this time in his chest, on the right side of his windpipe. Both surgery and treatment would be required.
With no knowledge of that dispiriting medical development, the pilgrimage organizers then notified him – approximately a week before the pilgrimage to Lourdes was set to begin – that a space had opened up. It was time to pack.
So off he went – hopefully, yet calmly disposed to accept the eventual outcome. He participated in all the usual activities in Lourdes, including Masses and immersion in the baths. He was fully committed to the spirit of the pilgrimage, but to be frank, wasn’t quite comfortable with the protocol of having to remain in a cart while going from point A to point B, since he was quite capable of walking on his own.
He submitted to all that the itinerary entailed, however, and used later moments of free time to walk the stations of the cross on the hill above town, or return to the Grotto in the quiet of the evening.
While he was in Lourdes, his doctor – quite concerned about the results of yet another test taken just before he left – contacted his wife in order to set up a new appointment as soon as possible. He was set to return on a Wednesday. So without her husband’s knowledge, she scheduled an appointment for Thursday. More tests were taken that day.
The results came back the following Monday – and the doctor was utterly nonplussed to discover that all signs of the melanoma had disappeared. His regular oncologist would later tell him: “I don’t believe in miracles, but in your case, I may have to rethink that.”
There's more and it's awe inspiring and hope-filled.
Our Lady of Lourdes, turn to your Son Jesus on behalf of my wife and ask Him, as I do, to heal her and to embrace her fully with His loving presence, granting her hope, assurance, comfort and peace.