March 28, 1999
Chances are, I am just like many people you know, a friend, a co-worker or a member of your family. I was born in the Toronto area. I married my high school sweetheart and we were blessed with two beautiful, healthy children: the first born a boy and then soon after, a little sister for Michael which completed our family. In short, I thought we had it all. We are an average family with good times and bad. My husband and I were raised as good Catholics, and we are raising our children in that same manner. I said my prayers before bed and always remembered to thank God for His many wonderful blessings.
In October of 1994, we were shocked when our eight-year-old son Michael was diagnosed with leukemia. Our formerly perfect lives fell apart. We were scared and confused, just hoping it was a bizarre dream from which we would soon awaken. How could this be happening to us? Our son had always been so healthy! As it turned out, it was no dream; it was every parent's nightmare and we were terrified by what lay ahead. We knew instinctively it was to be a true test for our family and for our faith.
At first, it was the unknown that had so frightened us, but as we soon learned, there was very little relief in the details of cancer treatment and, of course, all of our fears were worsened by the reality that it was the life of an eight-year-old boy hanging in the balance. The awful truth was that Michael would need to complete three years of chemotherapy. For the first six months, he was in and out of hospital. He was given chemotherapy daily and three weeks of radiation directly to his head. These six months of intensive chemotherapy were hard on Michael and excruciating to witness as parents. He felt ill most of the time and missing school and friends compounded the problem. All of the upheaval was hard on my husband and me, but we knew it must be unimaginable for our young son. It all seemed so unfair. Michael missed the complete year of grade three. We prayed daily and our strong belief helped us get through the first six terrible months of intensive treatment.
The next phase of the treatment is known as the maintenance phase. This stage was easier on Michael. Chemotherapy was only given to him every two weeks for the next two and a half years. Michael could return to school part time until his strength improved. He was thrilled that he was going to get to see all his school friends again, but a little nervous about their reaction to seeing him minus his hair, since hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. We decided to make his first day back to school “Hat Day”. That morning, we arrived at school and when Michael took his first hesitant peek into the classroom, he saw it was “Hat Day” for everyone else, too. He was so thrilled; it was the first time in six months he had actually smiled. Seeing my son’s smile after so many months of pain and hardship brought tears of joy to my eyes. I knew then that I would never again take a simple smile for granted!
Throughout this time, we attended church often and prayed the rosary. In my prayers, I asked God for two things: the first - to keep Michael in remission and to never let him relapse; the second was for God to give us all the strength we needed to carry this cross that we were given. It was a hard time for all of us, but through it all, there was my daughter Samantha, our little angel. She was obviously saddened by Michael’s illness and she always put him and his needs first. Samantha was only four when he was first diagnosed and, at times, it was difficult to have the time we wanted for both of the children.
On October 14, 1997, Michael completed his last day of chemotherapy. This was a day of mixed emotions because Michael was on his own now. To feel hopeful that the treatments had worked, he would need to stay cancer free for two years without drugs. If he did, he would be considered cured, but if he relapsed he would need more chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to survive.
Our nightmare continued, when on January 6, 1998, our Doctors detected that Michael had, in fact, had a relapse, just three months after the first round of treatment had ended. The short amount of time it took for the disease to reappear was not a good sign. My husband and I were devastated, we thought we were going to lose our son. We both started doubting God. Why is He not answering our prayers? After all, we had never wavered in our faith. And hadn’t this eleven-year-old boy and our family been through enough?
Immediately, heavy chemotherapy treatments resumed for Michael. He needed to be put back into remission before a bone marrow transplant could be considered. Furthermore, a successful transplant requires a donor with an exact match. Siblings and other family members are tested first, since these are the most likely places to find the high degree of similarity needed for a bone marrow match. Samantha was disappointed that she was not a match for Michael. At this point, a world-wide search began. We were very lost; control of events seemed out of our hands. Our child’s life now depended on the random luck that a total stranger, with the necessary characteristics to match Michael, could be found before it was too late.
I prayed day and night for a miracle. Michael would cry at night, not wanting his body racked with the effects of the radiation treatments. Among the possible effects of prolonged treatment is the inability to reproduce. So, in addition to everything else, we worried that this terrible disease would also rob Michael of the joys of bringing life into the world and, for us, the distant pleasure of being Grandparents to the children of our son. These thoughts upset Michael very much and we continued praying together for a miracle.
With my son’s wishes in mind, my husband started searching for alternatives. In doing so, he met Angie. Angie herself had gone though a bone marrow transplant two years before. She began telling us about Dr. Michael and Helen Rozeluk and how they prayed over her with the medal of Our Lady of Garabandal that was touched to Our Lady's kiss. After being prayed over, Angie received such beautiful healing gifts. She suggested that on Wednesday we go to the healing mass at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Toronto.
However, on the day of the next healing mass, Michael was to be admitted again to hospital for his next chemotherapy treatment. We were disappointed because we were anxious to try this new, faith based alternative to the debilitating cycle of radiation and sickness we had already been through. My husband turned to me and said, "I guess we were not meant to go to the mass tonight". On being admitted to hospital, a series of blood work was required to tell the doctors if Michael's blood levels were good enough to start chemotherapy. With suitcases in hand, we awaited the results. The nurse came and said, "Great news. There is a room ready for Michael but we still must wait for his test results to admit him”. She assured us his results would be fine. An hour later the nurse returned with a strange look on her face, I was quick to ask what was wrong. She proceeded to tell us that Michael's blood levels were too low to start chemotherapy. My husband said, "That is strange. His blood levels should be fine at this time of his treatment." I said, "That's not strange. Someone wants us at that healing mass tonight!"
We arrived at church at 7:00 p.m. After mass, Angie introduced us to Helen Rozeluk. When Helen started praying over Michael with her relic medal, I began to cry. After the prayer, she told us to go to confession and then return for mass on Sunday and have Bishop Danylak also pray over Michael. We did as we were told. We went to confession on Thursday. On Friday, we visited Dr. Michael in his dental office, where he also prayed over our Michael with his medal. Then on Sunday we returned to St. Josaphat's Cathedral for holy mass. After mass, Bishop Danylak prayed over Michael as well; it was an overpowering experience. Then the Bishop said, "He will be fine."
I wanted to believe, but I couldn't see any change in Michael, as leukemia is an internal disease. It wasn't as if he were crippled and then could walk. I needed to see for myself some tangible evidence that our long ordeal could be over. So I asked God to let Michael's hair begin to grow back. Well, within days Michael's hair did start growing back in. I was overwhelmed. I called the hospital to see if Michael's hair should be growing. I was told, “Not until six months after chemotherapy”.
I knew then that our prayers had been answered. Michael had been cured of leukemia and no longer needed chemo or a bone marrow transplant! We stopped all treatments! Needless to say the doctors thought we were crazy.
It has been over a year now since our last relapse and Michael is still doing great! Our doctor has never seen anyone at Michael's stage of treatment doing so well without chemotherapy. God is a constant part of our daily lives and both our children are healthy. We feel incredibly lucky and know that we have truly been blessed. We know that we need to believe and trust in God’s plan for our lives. Miracles DO happen! Michael is proof.