Rays of Mercy Fighting Cancer

Marian Helper Maricela Navarro Svbododa shares with us her battle with cancer, and how Jesus, the Divine Mercy, showed her that His rays of mercy were upon her:

God is love. Saint John Paul II said it best: "Mercy is love's second name." The Divine Mercy Image, message, and devotion confirm the great love our Lord has for us.

I have been praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for many years now. When I was first introduced to the Chaplet, I could hardly wait to share it with others. It also has led to a greater devotion to praying the Rosary. I pray for those who are not fond of the Rosary. I think that perhaps if they begin praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, they may desire to pray the Rosary as well.

The Image of Divine Mercy has also been very powerful for me. Living in a suburb of Houston, Texas, I am near Sugar Land, Texas. Saint Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land has a small chapel, the Divine Mercy Chapel, which holds a large stained-glass window of the Divine Mercy Image. In the Divine Mercy Chapel, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, and Perpetual Adoration is available for parishioners and visitors alike.

On a beautiful sunny day, at certain hours of the day, the sun's rays can be seen pouring through the stained-glass window and through the rays of the Image of Divine Mercy. Sitting in that chapel when the sun's rays pour through this stained-glass window, gazing at the Divine Mercy Image can feel like a mystical experience. It reminds me of Jesus' words to St. Faustina: "By means of this image I shall be granting many graces to souls; so, let every soul have access to it" (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, 570). This had been my devotion to Divine Mercy up until Nov. 2, 2016.

On that day, at 8 a.m., I was at work when I received a phone call from a nurse at my doctor's office. She notified me that I had breast cancer. At that moment, time seemed to stop. It no longer mattered how, earlier that morning, my husband had quietly whispered in my ear, "Happy birthday," or that one of my children had already called to wish me a happy birthday, or that my friends had texted my phone to wish me a happy birthday. The only thought running through my mind was, "Is this my last?"

I quietly listened to the nurse as arrangements were made to meet with the surgeon to discuss the diagnosis and schedule surgery. When I hung up the phone, the word "cancer" kept sounding in my ears. To my surprise, when I tried to get up from my desk, I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I was struggling to get from my desk to the door so that I could close it. As I slowly closed the door to my office, the tears began.

I felt fear and sadness, and I was in disbelief. But with every tear, came a prayer. I knew that no matter what I faced, the Lord would strengthen me. Yes, I was weak the moment I first received the news, but as time went on, I accepted my diagnosis. Prior to meeting with the surgeon, my family and friends were praying for me. When my friend who was a nurse and I met with the surgeon a few days later, he informed us that the biopsy had identified two cancerous areas in my left breast. One was at Stage 0 and the other was at Stage 1. He recommended a lumpectomy and radiation, then proceeded to schedule surgery for the first week in December. Thank God my friend was with me. She took notes and asked questions.

My church community, Sacred Heart in Richmond, Texas, was so supportive. As soon as they were informed I had cancer and was scheduled for surgery, they began praying. The ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service) community of St. Laurence in Sugar Land also started praying for me. I am a Certified Spiritual Companion through the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Just earlier that year I had served St Laurence on their first Women's ACTS retreat, and now they were returning that blessing by praying for me.

All the prayers, love, and support kept me focused on the Lord and His will for me. The prayers truly strengthened me, and I meditated on Jesus and His Passion. I thought about how He had suffered for me and how I now had the opportunity to offer up whatever suffering was to come for the sake of others, and to ask God to use this time to draw others closer to Him.

The day finally arrived for the surgery. My husband and a close friend were in the lobby. After the surgery, the surgeon first spoke with my husband and informed him that all had gone well. After I woke up from the effects of anesthesia, the surgeon then informed me, with a smile, that the surgery had gone well, that the cancer was removed. My friend later told me that she had prayed several Rosaries during that surgery.

Approximately eight weeks after surgery, the 33 treatments of radiation were scheduled to begin. Two weeks prior to the treatment, I returned to work. Arrangements were made to have the radiation treatments in the late afternoon so that I would only miss one hour a day from my normal Monday-through-Friday, eight-hour workday schedule.

The first day of my treatment I left work one hour early. I was a little anxious, but I drove to my appointment with no problem. The second day was the same. But on the third day, as I was driving to my appointment, I started crying and talking to God. I was telling the Lord that I was only at three treatments so far and I did not think I could do the other 30 treatments. I could not see myself driving every day to the same location, 32 miles away from work. I felt I did not have enough energy or strength to do so. I was sobbing and really feeling sorry for myself.

Just as I was saying, "Lord, I can't do this," I heard Him say loudly and clearly in my heart, "You can't, but WE can." Then, suddenly, I stopped crying. I said, "Lord, You are right, I can't but we can. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13). I continued with the treatments.

Every evening my poor husband would treat the area that was burned by the radiation with a special cream. He would apply the cream while I would look away. I was too afraid to look at the wound, much less treat it. I believe that was my way of coping. I thanked God for my husband's compassion and kindness.

A few days prior to the last week of radiation, my husband was applying the cream on the wound when he said to me, "This burn is severe. When are they going to stop? Can they stop and give you a break?"

His eyes were watery as he slowly applied the cream. My response was, "Honey, I know it is severe, but they can't stop. I can't stop. I must go until I finish all 33 treatments." By this time, the pain from the burn had become intense.

A few weeks before, without me asking, the radiologist, after examining me, had offered to prescribe pain medication. But I had refused. I have always had my worries about pain medicine and its side-effects, and I usually won't ask for it or take it unless the pain is unbearable.

Well, soon after that, I went again to see the radiologist. His nurse took my vitals and he examined me. He looked very concerned and said, "What is going on with you? What has changed."

I told him that nothing had changed and that I did not understand his concern. He said my blood pressure was high and it concerned him. I then replied, "I guess it's high because I am in severe pain from the burn?" He quickly said that he would prescribe a pain pill that would not make me drowsy. He then gently and compassionately said, "Please, take it."

On the first day of the final week of radiation, I was patiently laying on the radiation table. The radiation technician was setting up and adjusting the machine for my treatment. While he was away I started crying and closed my eyes. I did not want the tech to see me crying when he returned. As I lay there with my eyes closed, I once again spoke to God. I said, "Lord, I can't do this. These rays will burn me" (referring to the radiation rays). Then with my eyes still closed, I saw the Vilnius Divine Mercy Image, and I saw the rays coming from the Heart of Jesus. I heard the Lord say in my heart, "My rays will heal you."

My tears continued, but they were tears of thanksgiving. The Lord had heard my cry and had appeared in that beautiful image to remind me to trust in Him. After seeing the beautiful Image of Divine Mercy and hearing those words, I had the courage to go on and complete the treatments.

I was reminded of Jesus' words to St. Faustina about the image:

The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls ...

These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.

... Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (Diary, 299).

By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (Diary, 742).

Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace (Diary, 313).

It has been over a year since my last radiation treatment. I am blessed to say that I am cancer free. The Lord is merciful, and it is by His grace alone that I am here to share my story with others. Jesus, I trust in You.


You might also like...

One of the principal intentions of the personal prayers of St. Francis of Assisi (feast day: Oct. 4) should sound familiar to Divine Mercy apostles. This is no surprise.

Wow, have you ever considered all the things Pope St. John Paul II had to say about Divine Mercy? As we celebrate his feast day on Oct. 22, take another look.

Let us ask Jesus and His saints to help us take up our crosses and follow them on the well-worn path to Heaven.