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I was going about my business until one fine morning when I stepped into a medical office for a scheduled blood test. However, the findings revealed minor anemia, which did not cause for concern, but it caused another blood examination. I distinctly remember receiving a phone call on the morning of September 15, 2014, while working as a nurse case manager at the Boston Rehabilitation Hospital. The nurse's words, "Stella, all is not well with your blood test!" are now fresh on my head. Get a sheet of paper and write this down.” My mind raced; I couldn't make sense of what she had just said. Is it something is wrong and get a piece of or paper or was it get a piece of paper and nothing will be wrong. I held tightly to the stair rail, with my heart heavily pounding, there was no piece of paper in sight. I took a deep breath and said to her, “Just tell me, what is it?” All I heard from her were medical jargon such as antibodies, spikes, and monochromes. But the message was clear, there were abnormalities in my blood test, and she advised me to see a hematologist for further testing urgently.
With the astonishing news, I suspected I had cancer. My anxiety rose, and I could not wait one more day, I visited hematologist that very day a bone biopsy was carried out while I sang throughout the procedure, the first of its kind that has been conducted while singing. During the biopsy, the hematologist did not mention the existence of cancer but he was rather concerned about the blood abnormalities and therefore could not rule out cancer. It was scared, and I was anxious to know my fate, all this time my heart was pounding with anxiety. I did not get the result the same day as I expected, I walked home to wait for the results. The waitings for results were the most painful and tormenting days of my life. My mind and heart were troubled. “How can something be wrong? No it cannot be wrong, it is will be alright, it must be alright.” The reckoning day finally came ten days later, my telephone rang on the Sunday morning of 25th September 2014, and it was the doctor calling. I could not wait for him to utter a word; I asked him, “Tell me, do I have cancer?” He took a deep breath and asked me, “Stella, are you sure you want to have this discussion on the telephone?” At that moment, I knew I had cancer, I was going to die, with tears down my cheeks I asked him; “ How many days am I left with to live?” The doctor, however, calmed me down and explained to me that I had cancer of the bone marrow which he called Chronic Lymphocytic Lymphoma (CLL); he further stated that this type of cancer had no cure but a possible treatment in five to ten years. It was over for me; I only had at most ten years to live.
After receiving the heartbreaking news, I thought of seeking for a second opinion. I, therefore, contacted Boston Hospital’s oncologist for the second opinion, he was however not of any help to me since he could not answer my questions. Having not got any help from the oncologist, I sought a third opinion from another oncologist, at this time I was seeking for information and help, which was not forthcoming. The oncologist spent more than an hour with me answering my questions and offering explanations. As I left his office, I had a clear understanding what I was ailing from, my ailment, CLL was a type of lymphoma amongst hundreds whereby some are deadly, it, however, has no cure, may be five-year treatment. This oncologist was very caring and hospitable; he further offered me counseling. He asked me to figure out how I will live with my condition, and also offered me with how I could make sense of “Why me” and what I could do about it. As I was leaving, I had decided to change my care from the first doctor the hematologist who felt that my condition was a type of cancer to the second oncologist who specialized in lymphoma, my first step in making it real.
I felt the need and sense to do something about the illness, I could not let it put me down, I encouraged myself; “after all, I am not experiencing any symptoms except the disturbing disruption of life, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.” Friends, family, and relatives too did not disappoint in my quest to make something out of my illness. They surrounded me with love, advice, support, and encouragement. My first step was to seek help from an acupuncturist who started his treatment by prescribing “a healing shield.” I asked him, “What do you mean by a healing shield?” He further explained that I should find ways to protect myself from negative people, negative thoughts, and negative places. After several treatments, I felt better and I actively engaged in promoting my health. I warded off the cancer devil and the worries of what I have to do from my mind. I soon stopped worrying why I had cancer and why it chose me, the why me question disappeared from my mind. I managed to let go all the fear, tension and anxiety that had become part of my life, I was free at last, at least free at mind.
My second help came from a medical psychologist who confirmed what I already knew, that the diagnosis had hit me like a hurricane. He, however, encouraged me and asked me to right myself again and get back to my usual self that he described as vibrant, resilient and high functioning. The psychologist took me through the mind counseling therapy where he described the mind-body connection. He explained that the body’s actions are an interpretation and reactions to what the mind thinks. My sessions with the psychologist were productive since as the counseling continued, I was no longer pissed off that I had cancer and the bristles I had against my friends whenever they asked me to seek the lesson of lymphoma significantly reduced. As the counseling progressed further, I became hopeful that I will finally be rewarded with a miracle cure if I did the right thing work every day. I also became grateful that I did not have horrible problems such as stroke, Parkinson’s, leg amputations and many other grievous problems held by my patients which finally encouraged me to accept my condition and could say it loud.
My final and most important redemption from my illness came from God. My anxiety prompted me to search the internet for healing miracles, and I discovered a healing vortex in northern Santa Fe called El Santuario de Chimayo. The chapel of Chimayo was built in 1814 near the Santa Cruiz River where a parishioner from a nearby church found a crucifix. Despite him taking the crucifix to his church three times, it found its way back to its spot near the river. The parishioner finally understood that that the crucifix wanted to remain in Chimayo and therefore the chapel was built in Chimayo. The healings started afterward, and the chapel came to be known as the “Lourdes of America,” where thousands of visitors came yearly to worship and seek to heal for their various ailments. No one understands the source of the healing, but it is believed that the soil from the slopes is blessed and is the source of the healing. Therefore anybody seeking to heal has to scoop some ‘holy dirt’ from a little well adjacent to the chapel, hence the intriguing story of the Chapel of Chimayo. In the fall of the summer, I visited the chapel of Chimayo in pursuit of divine healing.
I entered the chapel and went straight into the prayer room which was a dimly lit room where I cast a prayer, and afterward I scooped some ‘holy dirt.' As I was leaving the chapel, I stopped to read some testimonies scripted on the visitor's brochures. There were testimonies of healing and recovery. The stories gave hope and encouragement that the holy dirt will heal me too. On my way out of the chapel, I was stopped by a woman dressed in black; she handed me a stone inscribed with the word HOPE. I looked into her face, and I told her that I had cancer and she immediately started praying for me, loudly casting cancer out of my body in the name of Jesus. As she left, she reminded me that I am hopeful and healthy and that I will be healed. I afterward left Chimayo and went back home convinced that I already had all that I needed to defeat lymphoma, I had found hope, strength, and courage and I was therefore healed in hope, strength, and courage.
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