Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks to Pope John Paul II, For Helping Me Survive Ovarian Cancer

Guest Post by Dee Sparacio

Dee lives New Jersey, where she blogs about how she survived ovarian cancer. Here, she shares how her faith was instrumental in her victory.

I have written about my experience as an ovarian cancer survivor for over three years now. I've shared stories about my CT and PET scans, the anxiety of waiting for CA-125 results, the options I had when I recurred, the sadness I felt when friends lost their battle and the decisions I made when it recurred.

But I also wrote about the good times, the support of my husband, the great medical care I received, the relief I felt when I was in remission, the happiness when my daughter married, how proud I was of my son when he graduated from college and then graduate school and how thrilled I was when we traveled places I only dreamed about seeing.

People often ask me how I have survived these past five years. And was it my positive attitude and I tell them it has been "Family, Faith and Good Medicine."I thought in light of the future beatification of Pope John Paul II (or as I fondly call him, JP squared) that I would write a bit about my faith on this cancer journey.

I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. But in March 1995, I was not very happy with my God. My sister Roberta passed away after a five-year battle with breast cancer. My prayer was not answered.

Then, in October 1995, my daughter and I were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the mass offered by Pope John Paul II at the Meadowlands. It was a cool, very rainy day. But I remember clearly being moved to tears as he entered the stadium and again as he offered mass. (The photo above is actually of the Pope responding to my side of the stadium. I'd share one of my photos but we were in the very top tier , nine rows from the top and the Pope was very small.) At the end of the Mass, I held up rosary beads, which he blessed. Today, you can find those rosary beads in my pocketbook.

Fast forward to 2005. The Pope had passed away in April. He was more than my pontiff; he was a world leader I looked up to and admired. I received my ovarian cancer diagnosis in July. I didn't forget those rosary beads blessed by Pope John Paul II. I used them to pray to Jesus when I was upset. I prayed during my chemotherapy infusions. And I prayed when it was 3 a.m. and the steroids kept me awake. I thought about the dignified and holy way Pope John Paul II faced his disease and death. That was the way I wanted to face my diagnosis.

My Aunt Dora, who is 102, prays to the Blessed Mother. But I pray to Mary and to Pope John Paul II. I read these words spoken by the Pope every day:

"Today, I tell you:
continue unflaggingly on the journey on
which you have set out in order
to be witnesses everywhere
of the glorious Cross of Christ .
Do Not Be Afraid!
May the joy of the Lord,
crucified and Risen,
be your strength, and may
Mary Most Holy
always be beside you"

The Pope's words gave me the strength to continue with treatments when I wanted to stop, the strength to face the surgery for my recurrence and the strength to get through each day whatever that day might bring. Those words still give me strength. Maybe even the strength to write this post and share my faith with others.

Every day is a blessing! Thank you, JP squared for helping me to face this disease.