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A Test of Faith

Posted 8/25/2013

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  I wrote a week or so ago about the influence/impact of belief for people going through cancer treatment. This has been another example (? perhaps confirming that faith) of the not uncommon situation of thinking about a particular topic and suddenly being surrounded by it. Throughout last week, I had many conversations with women about God and faith and the possibility of an after-life. The summary is that we all have many questions and some firmly, dearly held beliefs, and we all hold hope.

  I have shared a link a number of times to the amazing NY Times  blog, A Life Interrupted, written by a young woman, the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, with acute leukemia. Her recent essay about her faith and its many tests is especially wonderful. Her disease did not respond to the standard treatments, and she quickly found herself in conversations about clinical trials. I suspect that anyone in those difficult and scary conversations is also thinking about God; there is so much uncertainty and fear, and any choice must carry an element of faith.

  Here is the beginning and a link to read more:

Life, Interrupted: A Test of Faith

With a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, I’ve always had a great interest in religion, but
I’ve never practiced one myself. After I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia at
the age of 22, I put my faith in medicine.
During my first cycle of induction chemotherapy I did what I’ve always done best: I studied.
Growing up, I had always been an avid bookworm and a straight-A student. I approached my
cancer the same way I approached writing my senior thesis in college: I buried my head in
research journals, interviewed experts and scoured the Internet for information. As they say,
knowledge is power. And I believed that the more I could learn about my disease, the greater
my chances of survival.
Two and half years later, I realized how naïve I was. Knowledge, I’ve learned, has its limits.
Back in 2011, after four weeks in isolation in the oncology ward at a New York City hospital,
my doctors had bad news: not only had the standard treatments not worked, but my cancer
seemed to have become more aggressive. Despite the chemotherapy, I was going into bone
marrow failure. My immune system was no longer functioning, and my body could not
produce blood products on its own, leaving me dependent on blood transfusions. At the age
of 22, I began to consider my own mortality. It had never occurred to me that, with all of the
progress that has been made in cancer research, none of the standard treatments would
work for me.
That’s when I learned about something called a clinical trial.


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