Now mind you, I was pretty much out of my head not only with the pain, but the morphine they were shooting into me every four... or if they forgot, five or six hours, sometimes later. Some compassionate woman from down the hall, got herself out of bed to come find the one who was calling on God. She found me and proceeded to tell me how she would pray with me and for me. Praise the Lord, thank you Jesus...
Oh, my. I shut my mouth and smiled at her. There was no way I was going to get into a religious argument with her, no way I was going to go through a major guilt and conversion session, and soon she was gone. I was very bitter, and at that time was Atheist. Little did she know that I had been cussing, "taking the Lord's name in vain", otherwise I don't think she would have been so interested in praying with me. I guess I should have said "goddammit", as my Mother would have said if she was hurting.
I knew little medical terminology. But I sure as hell knew bad news when I heard it.
Since I had cancer and wasn’t expected to live anyway, I just thought I would take things into my own hands and get it over with. I was so despondent about what that doctor had said. I had had enough surgeries!!! I had had enough pain and suffering. I had enough of hospitals, doctors and nurses. Enough of living in fear.
Needless to say, the little old Italian woman, Mrs. Calabresi who was in the bed across from me, (four to a room was a luxury in those wards) watched all this with bright eyes. I loved that old woman. I don't know why anymore. Every morning the priest would come in to give her last rites, every afternoon her adult kids would traipse in to see if she had died yet, and quietly leave. Every evening she would attempt chat with us but mostly listened. I didn't know much about her diagnosis except that she had something terribly wrong with the arteries in her legs, ( I think) and she couldn't walk and was expected to make her exit quite soon.
She completely disarmed me by saying: “You no like God? Tha's okay! Madre di Dio si curerà. God's Mother make better!”
My mind went completely blank... a concept I couldn't conceive, God’s mother? Calabresi had me and she knew it.
"Okay Now? A pregare la Madonna You pray!" I just stared at her. "You pray! I pray!"
I couldn't say no. I would have done anything she asked me. She had a "green scapula" with her. (How it suddenly appeared threw me. Did she have it in her hand all along and I didn't notice. Why, of course!) She held it up for me to see the Blessed Virgin. She showed me the words encircling her picture. Then we said the words together.
Soon the nurses were in there putting in a new IV and one catheter. They couldn't do anything about the one leaking into my abdomen. The doctor would have to repair the damage surgically.
So, that was why I was cutting things. I had scissors, but no razor, so this would take time. Damned nurses. If I had turned that light on needed assistance they never would have come in all night long. Just when you don't want them, they come along and bother you.
So, the next day, they had to take me into emergency surgery. After I woke up Dr. Neisen (the nice one, see? I remember his name after all these years) came in beaming. I was still kind of druggy from the anesthesia but so glad to see him. He said, "I don't know what happened, but your bladder is all in one piece. All we had to do was sew up the hole where your abdominal catheter was located."
Smiling nurses came in to see that I was comfy and all tucked in. When they pulled back the curtain, I could hardly wait to tell Mrs. Calabresi. But her bed was all made up tight as a drum. She and all her belongings were gone. Nobody had to tell me where she had gone.
The next day, I asked for the priest. He came in. I told him about the miracle, and that I wanted to become Catholic. After he asked a few questions he told me no. It was impossible. I was a married woman, on my way to a divorce and previously baptized and confirmed in a non-catholic church. I was pretty insulted. After all, it had been a Catholic miracle. He agreed it couldn’t have been anything less. But that wouldn't make any difference where my soul was concerned.
He left, and then I was REALLY pissed at god!
For a long time after that though, I went to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Youngstown NY, and had some peaceful times. But, I never converted, even after the "rules" got loosened.
This is the tip of the iceberg of how I coped with the diagnosis and surgical challenges. Very badly, until Mrs. Calibresi stepped in. Then, very calmly, because, “Tha's Okay.” I could always talk to God's Mother.