I am an adult survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After completing my initial chemotherapy treatment 19 years ago, I wanted to help others find the strength to survive, too. I started volunteering at a local hospital with cancer patients bringing hope with my story of 19 years in remission. But in March of this year, my regular blood work results came back as very poor, and it looked like I had one of three types of cancer.
My husband and I decided to go on a trip to Italy for 12 days and include a side trip to Itri, the city in which his grandparents were born. There is a legend there that tells of a deaf, mute shepherd who, in 796 AD, lost his cow on the mountain. When he was searching for the cow, the shepherd came across a tree with a picture of Mary holding Jesus, so he knelt down and prayed. The shepherd’s hearing and speech were miraculously restored and he returned to the town of Itri to tell everyone. According to the legend, the picture disappeared for several years but was found. At that time, the town decided to build a church around the tree with the picture to honor and protect it.
On our way to visit the church, I had a conversation with God telling him that I thought it would be great if we could see the tree and the picture. Of course when we arrived, I did not see any trees close by. A caretaker let us into the lovely, small church and my husband took some pictures. There were just four of us there including the caretaker and our guide, who had driven us to Itri and served as our translator.
The caretaker motioned us over to where he was standing. He told our guide that he wanted us to follow him through a door that led behind the altar. We followed him through the door and there he showed us a section of wall that had been carved out and was covered by a large piece of glass. Metal bars crisscrossed the glass. Inside this protected area the caretaker pointed to what he identified as the original picture of Mary and Jesus on the trunk of the tree just as the shepherd had discovered it in 796 AD. The caretaker kindly allowed my husband to take a picture of the picture by putting his camera lens through a hole in the glass. I put my hand on the wall beside the carved out portion and prayed to have my health restored so I could continue my work with cancer patients and children. I got the chills as I prayed to Mary.
Two weeks after we returned home my blood work was repeated with the expectation that the doctors would see progression of the cancer. To everyone’s amazement, the blood work was perfectly normal—everything indicating cancer was gone! I don’t have an answer, but I am extremely grateful.
I believe I still have a lot left to do helping cancer patients and doing my other very important volunteer work with survivors of sexual abuse. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself, I have been very involved in a pilot program for our state prison teaching classes to sexual abusers called “Victimization.” We hope to make a difference, no matter how small, to address the terrible damage of childhood abuse and molestation.
I love the work I do at the hospital with cancer patients and also with One Voice, an advocacy group established in 2010 for survivors of sexual violence. Thank you for allowing me to share my miracle story with you.
Thank you for all the wonderful work you do for so many people.
Mary L. Byrne
You are a wonderful example of what I recommend to people all the time— doing what you love can restore health and even more importantly, keep us healthy to begin with!
I also can see in what you share with us here that you know the secret of loving your life so that your body gets the message that you want to live life fully.
Thank you for inspiring us all by demonstrating the power of living in the moment. What ultimately makes our whole lives memorable is always just living in the present moment.