I have often felt disappointed that I didn’t have a closer personal relationship with our Lord. I hear other people talk about being closely connected to Jesus on a daily basis. I pray but don’t seem to get a response. Am I doing something wrong? Why isn’t my prayer life more fruitful? Can’t Jesus give me a sign that He hears me?
In mid-September I had a chest x-ray in a regularly scheduled physical that discovered a nodule in my upper right lung. A quick series of medical tests resulted in surgery to remove the nodule (no one says the word that begins with the letter “c” but everyone knows that there is a risk of cancer) on October 2nd. As I lay in recovery and regained consciousness from the anesthesia, the surgeon said all was well, and the nodule was benign. Praise Be to God!
However, the story takes a strange turn at this point. Much to the bewilderment of an experienced surgeon, the nodule was identified as a coccidioidomycosis fungus which is commonly called Desert Fever. It affects about 100,000 people annually living in a dry, desert-like climate – 60% of the cases arise in the greater Phoenix area. While my surgeon has seen this fungus in Chicagoland, these patients are “snow birds” who spend a considerable amount of time in Arizona during winter. However, while I travel for business, the last time I visited Arizona was 10 years ago. The spores of the fungus do not travel far in the air and are not contagious from an already-inflected individual.
Because of the mysterious cause of this illness, we agreed I should seek counsel from an infectious disease specialist as a follow up. Reviewing the paper work, the specialist initially thought that the pathologist mis-diagnosed the nodule and personally did a second analysis of the nodule removed from my lung. He confirmed Desert Fever. He has seen this fungus in the Midwest but only in patients who are either snow birds or are lab technicians who accidentally expose themselves to the spores and become infected.
So, how did I contract a disease that modern medical science says it is impossible to contract? The answer came to me at about 1 am in bed: maybe it was the Holy Spirit in action. In answer to my prayers, my family’s prayers, and the prayers of many in the St. Francis community, the Holy Spirit turned a potentially serious cancer into a harmless nodule. Sound impossible? If God created the universe and can turn ordinary bread/wine into the Body/Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, changing the molecules of this nodule is no big deal. The Holy Spirit, however, has a sense of humor and turned the nodule into a fungus that is scientifically impossible for me to contract! It’s like the Holy Spirit saying, “you wanted a sign that your prayers are heard and answered, Raymond – well, here it is.”
There is one last part to this story. I saw my personal physician in Lake Zurich following my meeting with the specialist. He told me that he had several phone conversations with the surgeon prior to surgery and that the pre-surgery prognosis was not optimistic. After the exam, he left the room but returned about 30 seconds later. Standing at the door, he said “I don’t know if you are a religious man, but you are very lucky and have just been given a second life. God must have something very important for you to do.” My doctor is Jewish and a good friend.
The whole saga of my illness has been very instructive. It taught me that prayers do matter. Also, there are miracles happening around us every day, but we need to open our hearts and minds to their existence. It also taught me that it is not possible for us to know God’s plan for us. We just need to trust Him, listen to the seeds He plants in our souls (even at 1 am in the morning), and treat every day as a gift that should be shared with others. Amen?
Again, my most heart-felt thanks to everyone who kept me in their prayers. A special thanks to Father Ryan who, with Deacon John, anointed me in the sacristy prior to surgery. And, of course, to my very special wife, Pam, who was at my side – physically and spiritually – throughout the ordeal. THANK YOU!
May God bless you all,