“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

      -Isaiah 40:31

One never knows how they will respond when called to endure a profoundly difficult and life-altering experience.  The gift of Grace to cope with heavy burdens is always a welcomed friend.  However, the worries of family and close relationships can contribute to lengthy and overwhelming concerns, even while strength and endurance come in unexpected ways.  Remaining available to God’s love is paramount and prayerful meditations and daily devotions keep us calm and focused.  A trusty and reliable source, Brother David Steindl-Rast’s Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, may provide stability, but where the journey meanders is unpredictable.  Life becomes pared down to the barest necessities, accepting God’s love and returning it to the universe. 

I was confronted with a grave cancer diagnosis in advanced stages, which required radical surgery with multiple grafts and transplants for major facial reconstruction.  Almost nobody had ever heard of such things.  The difficult job of sharing the news with loved ones presented a journey of its own.  It demanded a fortitude which was surprisingly revealed.  It was comforting for people to know that I was up to the task.  When they saw faith and hope in this moment, they too believed.  I felt a huge obligation to console and quell the fears of others.  It was not a choice; it was a calling to smile through the anxiety and pain. God directly summonsed me and I couldn’t resist His eyes.  I asked my physicians to stop apologizing because I didn’t feel like a victim.  When asked by my doctors how I was holding up, I would give what felt like a very natural response. I would say that I felt truly blessed to have so much love and support throughout my entire life.  Nothing else mattered.

Everyday is a mystery which uniquely unfolds for each individual life.  The specifics vary so greatly and utterly unexpectedly that laboring over control is a futile effort.  It is a waste of precious time that can never be recovered.  If only it were that simple. Rather, it is a constant struggle to continually refocus and remain unbewildered.  When walking the most rugged terrain in life, it is essential to remember that today is the day.  It is the day for those fighting courageous battles with cancer, it is the day for the billionaire who lives a long life of luxury, and it is the day for anyone with a breath in their body the same.

The most severe moments of cancer treatment were brightly contrasted with a tremendous light and total connection with God, which continue to inspire perpetual attempts to recapture those encounters.  The recollection of these experiences is palpable today, with Jesus, Mary and Abraham holding my right hand. When everything else was stripped away, there was no diversion in the path to confound my attention. Only the dazzling sparkle, which will direct all my future days as I strive, minute by minute, to be fully united with God.    

Survival Kit:

  • Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
  • Bible App on a Smartphone
  • Daily verses and Bible study via text with a close friend
  • Prayerful and guided meditations
  • Visualizing religious and tranquil imagery
  • Reaching out for prayers
  • Healing Bible verses

Andrea Heineman

Andrea has been a parishioner at Christ the King since moving to RI almost 20 years ago. She has served the parish community on the Religious Formation Committee, the Parish Council, and many years as a Cathechist.