Writer copes with cancer - Catholic Courier

Writer copes with cancer

When the cancer announced itself … I just imagined climbing up into God’s lap, and he wraps his arms around me and protects me from whatever is out there. Sometimes, that is how I would fall asleep, listening to the heartbeat of God, feeling the breath of the Spirit. Does it make reality go away? No … but it is a wonderful respite, a peaceful time that helps me catch my breath, remember what I have to worry about, and what is not mine to worry about. And I know that whatever happens, God is walking every bit of that journey with me. (April 25)

How do we live with exuberance and joy when we don’t know which way we’ll be jumping tomorrow? I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t pull it off very well … but I’m bound and determined to try. Most of us firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that is so, from the bottom of my heart. So, when my wants and dreams are not immediately realized but placed on hold (or maybe even canceled!) I have finally concluded that it is because there is something else right where I already am that God wants me to notice. (May 23)

Mary Carol Wall said she had always wanted to be a writer — but certainly didn’t envision that her first audiences would be reading about her struggles with cancer.

“Lo and behold, I’m writing e-mails. And the e-mails are taking on a life of their own,” remarked Wall, 49.

Wall, the religious-education coordinator and youth minister at St. Mary’s Parish in Bath, has been battling breast cancer for the past several months. After being diagnosed with a large tumor on her right breast, she underwent her sixth round of chemotherapy treatment in early June and was due to have a mastectomy in the near future.

During the late winter she began chronicling her situation to approximately 100 people on an e-mail list. She explained that she knows numerous people in the Bath area not only at St. Mary’s, but at schools and other churches through substitute teaching and extensive social-ministry endeavors.

“People wanted to stay updated with what’s going on. It was so much easier than answering the phone,” she said. “And you get more prayers that way. Boy, I’ve had a lot of prayers.”

Many times people have replied by sharing their own stories about cancer.

“It seems so affirming, kind of back and forth,” she said.

In addition, the columns are apparently getting forwarded because she’s heard back from readers who weren’t on the initial distribution list.

In fact, the response was so strong that her columns now run occasionally, with her permission, in St. Mary’s bulletin. In them she reflects on family (Wall and her husband, Jim, have five children ages 10 to 24), friends and spirituality while also giving news about her illness.

Though there is no guarantee she will make a full recovery, Wall said her prognosis is quite hopeful. The chemotherapy has been effective, shrinking the tumor to about half of its originally detected size.

“It’s better than anyone had expected. I don’t know whether it’s the prayers or that I was in otherwise pretty good health,” Wall said, noting that people have told her she doesn’t look or act like she has cancer. In reality, she said she often gets tired and queasy, especially after chemo treatments. She has cut back on her parish responsibilities, coordinating many activities rather than being hands-on, although she still tries to participate as much as possible: “If you’re just feeling miserable, with all these people around you can’t stop and think.”

Wall said she is deeply embracing her faith to cope with whatever lies ahead. She remarked that death can strike in an instant, and happen to perfectly innocent people of any age, whether it’s a life-threatening illness such as hers or an accident that occurs without warning.

“That’s not even our job to even worry about it. However it worked wasn’t my job, that’s up to God,” she said. “I never know for sure what’s going to be at the end of it. It’s just God, and I just try to say ‘do what you want — this is for you and however you want to use me, use me.’ The thing of it is, there’s no guarantees in life. You don’t know what your future holds five minutes from now, let alone 25 years from now.”

Regardless of the outcome, Wall remains consistently upbeat.

“I truly believe that when you are given the very hard things in life, when you hang on to God, he’ll give you a very huge payoff,” she said. “It may not be the thing you want, but I guarantee it’s going to be beautiful.”

Acknowledging the many blessings she has received, she remarked, “God is great … and life is good.”

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