from The Catholic Thing
Mr. Clyde King, the steady sacristan at my parish here in northern California approached me one day after Mass last year, asking if perhaps I could fill in for him for about ten days. He might be going out of town, though this was not yet assured; he wanted to line someone up, with plenty of notice, just in case.
He was planning, or rather hoping, to go to Lourdes; he has been battling melanoma since 2009. He had had one surgery to remove a tumor from his left temple, and another one in late 2010 to remove three more tumors just beneath his jaw line. Aside from that procedure, which excised a portion of his neck along with the cancer, no one would have any reason to suspect he’d had a brush with a life-threatening illness. He looked sturdy and walked strong. His vigor was such that I was surprised to learn he was over sixty-five. And for the moment, all the melanoma had been removed.
Still, he put in an application to join an annual pilgrimage sponsored by the Knights of Malta, who take malades – pilgrims who are sick enough to qualify but well enough to travel. Not every applicant, of course, can be accommodated, and he was put on the waiting list. He responded with equanimity, saying simply that Mary will decide who ends up going.
Soon afterwards, the radiologist called and somberly informed him that a routine follow up PET scan revealed the presence of yet another and severe (stage 4 melanoma) tumor – this time in his chest, on the right side of his windpipe. Both surgery and treatment would be required.
With no knowledge of that dispiriting medical development, the pilgrimage organizers then notified him – approximately a week before the pilgrimage to Lourdes was set to begin – that a space had opened up. It was time to pack.
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