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A Life Sentence

The words that anyone would hate to hear became a reality for me.

I still shudder when I replay the memory in my mind: “You have cancer.”

Those three words turned my world upside down and rocked me to my core. I was suffocated and paralyzed with fear thinking of how my six children would live and grow up without their mom. The moment I heard those words, I had given myself a death sentence. Little did I know that the death sentence was truly a “life sentence.”

A new life of prayer, sacrifice, pain, redemptive suffering, and humility began.

I learned to fully rely on God. I learned I had absolutely no control of what was happening inside my body. One tumor. Two tumors. Three tumors. In my mind I had no choice but to be aggressive and fight using all my physical strength, emotional strength, family, friends, church support, and most importantly, my spiritual strength.

While carrying this cross, I grew closer to God and to the beautiful patron saint of breast cancer, Saint Agatha.

St. Agatha was born in Sicily during the third century to a wealthy family. Because of her incredible beauty, she was highly sought after for marriage. She refused marriage proposals because she had dedicated her life completely to God with a vow of virginity. Enraged by her faith and her refusal to marry, a Roman judge had St. Agatha arrested and tortured. She was whipped, burned, and had her breasts cut off from her chest.

In her suffering, she remained firm and confident in her Christain faith and eventually died while in prison. St. Agatha is venerated as a virgin and martyr, and is commemorated in Eucharistic Prayer 1 of the Roman Canon of the Mass. Her feast day is celebrated on February 5.

God was present and visible to St. Agatha in her suffering.

He gave her unfathomable grace to withstand the atrocities she endured. God was also present and visible to me in every step of my breast cancer journey.

The prayers, novenas, cards, Masses, meals, visits from family, friends, and church community, were a constant source of strength, encouragement, and love.  Although life gives you crosses, Jesus helps you carry them with grace, family, friends, and beautiful patron saints. St. Agatha was my inspiration to view my cross of suffering as a gift of suffering.

St. Agatha, pray for us!

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Angie Elser

Angie writes from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the mother of six children and co-founder of the MOMMS (Mothers of Major and Minor Seminarians) Prayer watch for the Diocese of Little Rock.

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