In mid-May of 1993, I was pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Houston and my mother died in New Orleans at the age of 99 years and two months. I went home to bury her, and discovered, on my return to Houston, that I was having some abnormal bleeding in my body. My doctors did a thorough exam, and found cancer. I remember how unreal it seemed to me: I had cancer! Cancer was something that happened to other people; I was a healthy 63 year old. Maybe they had made a mistake. But there was no mistake. Even though I felt fine and didn’t have an ache or a pain, I had an aggressive cancer growing in my internal organs and something needed to be done about it.
On the morning of July 15th of that year—seventeen years ago today—I was wheeled into surgery here in Houston and underwent a major operation in which some organs were removed and others were rearranged to make up for the missing ones. An anesthesiologist came and sat by my bedside in the operating room and introduced himself. We shook hands and he began the administration of the anesthetic. The next thing I knew, my own surgeon was waking me up and saying, “How’re you doing, Father?” I think it was about 4 hours later. I was amused at his question and said to him: you should know that better than I do!
I remained in the hospital for nine days and then came home to continue my recuperation. I was so weak after those days in bed that on climbing the stairs to my room, I had to sit and rest about half-way up the staircase. My travel group and I had already planned our 1993 trip to Europe, and it was only about six weeks away. I felt that I would NEVER make that trip, as weak as I was. But the human body is capable of marvels, and six weeks after that, I flew with my friends to Paris and then to Lourdes for the beginning of a wonderful trip. There was no need for chemotherapy, radiation, or any medication. I just got well and went on with my life.
I tell you this today because this is July 15th, the anniversary of that BIG operation. And since then, Saint Bonaventure, the good Franciscan who was a personal friend of our Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas and whom we celebrate on July 15th each year, is my “cancer friend.” It may be that you are being told that you have cancer and need surgery, or that may happen in the future. If so, I hope that my story will be of some encouragement to you. Cancer is not the end of the world. And of course, neither is death. We are in the hands of a loving God, who knows the future even though we don’t, and loves us far more than we can imagine.
May Saint Bonaventure and the Lord bless you. Thank you for seeking God’s Truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.