Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Facing Cancer With Hope And Courage

By ANTOINETTE BOSCO, CNS | Published January 15, 2004

I doubt there is one family among my readers that hasn’t had to face the onslaught of an illness caused by cancer in either a family member or a friend. It is a devastating shock when the bad news hits.

Years ago I was taught that cancer simply meant “cells gone wild,” and I think that definition still tells the sad tale. Sadder yet, they can go wild in any part of our bodies, hitting any organs.

When the bad news hits, the questions that immediately surface are the same for all. That’s what Lorraine V. Murray says, and she’s talking from experience dealing with breast cancer. “Why did this happen? What will come next? How long will I live? Will I suffer?” she asks in an honest, first-person story titled “Why Me? Why Now? Finding Hope When You Have Breast Cancer” (Ave Maria Press).

Murray acknowledges that “no human being escapes drinking from the chalice of suffering—a cup that comes in different disguises,” referring to human sorrows such as mental illness, divorce, crippling accidents and being a victim of crime. She credits her cancer diagnosis with teaching her that we must admit that “the illusion of control over our lives is just that: an illusion.”

Reading her enormously human book, I found myself touched to tears, both remembering my beautiful sister-in-law Jodi, who died from breast cancer, and her husband, my younger brother, who long has battled hairy cell leukemia and now is dealing with pancreatic cancer. Then there’s my sister Loretta, 18 years younger than I am, now in remission from a melanoma that can always hit again.

For the past 50 years, researchers have been working to find “the cure” for cancers. They have developed treatments and tests that have helped millions to cope with their illness. There can, however, be some very difficult side effects.

But starting five years ago we began to hear about brilliantly designed drugs that don’t hit every cell in sight but rather are called “targeted therapies” because they are intended to have a bull’s-eye effect, hitting just the cancer cells and not the other ones, the good ones.

Results so far are mixed. A lucky few experience spectacular healing, but far more have disappointing results. Cancer “is a much more complicated problem than anyone ever appreciated,” said Dr. Leonard Saltz, a colon cancer expert at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

I am inspired, though, by the courage and gallantry I have seen in people who battle their cancer onslaughts, never losing hope. People such as Murray, who put “Christ in the driver’s seat,” focused on how Jesus told us not to worry and then found that her fears “were tamed.” She went on to find the courage and strength to put her “spiritual journey with cancer” into writing, specifically to help others find hope, as she has.

A reporter with the daily paper in my town wrote recently about his wife’s battle with breast cancer, telling how she has lived two years longer now than doctors expected. Joe Hurley wrote, in truth, a love story, and one of faith: “I prefer to think that there are other forces at work here besides medicine. The spirit of hope is a powerful force, perhaps more powerful than cancer.”

Editor’s Note: Lorraine V. Murray is a regular contributor to The Georgia Bulletin and member of St. Thomas More Church, Decatur.