Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

The Most Important 'C-word' Of All

Tim Lilley

At one time or another, many – if not all – of you reading these words have heard that ambiguous term “C-word.” What did you think of just now as you read the headline and this column’s first sentence?

Cancer … right? It is most generally associated with that term.

As I write this, two people who are very dear to me are battling cancer. They’ve had surgeries; one of them has undergone multiple rounds of chemo. The other person’s medical team has suggested aggressive treatment with chemo and radiation following recovery from surgery to remove a tumor.

Make no mistake; cancer is an insidious disease. Insidious as in, “developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.” That’s how Merriam-Webster’s describes an insidious disease.

One of Mom’s sisters was getting ready to start her day several years ago when she suddenly blacked out. Brain cancer caused it, and she died within a matter of weeks. She had no warning.

Another friend – a guy I played music with more than 20 years ago – fought melanoma through surgery and chemo, believing he had won. Then, during a routine check-up years later, doctors discovered tumors on his spine and brain. As with my aunt, he died in a matter of weeks.

Dad spent 37 years as an underground coal miner. He went from seemingly perfect health to death in about nine months.

We can all tell stories like these because cancer is an equal-opportunity killer. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor; it’s a dreadful disease.

Quite often, diagnoses that include “the C-word” leave us dumbfounded, angry, bitter and sad.

Since 1991, I have been going to oncology clinics for regular treatment of a hereditary blood disease. It’s not cancer and, with the regular treatment, has no impact at all on my life. I mention it only because for many of the past 26 years, my treatment occurred in large rooms full of people receiving intravenous chemo.

In those moments, people like me see first-hand the terrible impact of cancer on so many lives. Never, however, did I see despair; hope always prevailed – and it always will because of the most important “C-word” of all … Christ.

As I began writing this column, a hymn we all know popped into my head – no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit. It opens like this:

Longing for light, we wait in darkness … longing for truth, we turn to you

Make us your own, your holy people … light for the world to see

Christ, be our Light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness.

St. Peregrine learned about the most important “C-word” of all centuries ago, only hours before his doctor intended to amputate a cancerous leg. It is reported that Peregrine literally dragged himself before a Crucifix to pray and, in a drowsy state, thought he saw Jesus descend to heal his leg.

The doctor arrived the next morning to find no trace of cancer – not even a wound.

I pray to St. Peregrine and St. Raphael – the Archangel of healing and deliverance – daily for intercession on behalf of my friends and all those who fight cancer. I also turn to the most important “C-word” of all; Christ, be our light!