Dorothy Cummings McLean

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LifeSiteNews reporter Dorothy with her husband Mark.

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Doctors called Mark’s brain-cancer healing ‘miraculous’: I never told them who made it happen

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

EDINBURGH, February 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – If my husband’s recovery from brain surgery is a miracle, whose intercession do I thank? 

When Mark was diagnosed with a brain tumor last March, nobody wanted to remove it. No matter how many operations he had — in total there were five — the surgeons thought excising the tumor was too dangerous.

Instead, they made a hole in his brain to drain fluid, and when that stopped working, they put in a standard shunt. When that stopped working, they put in an adjustable shunt. When a tiny brain clot made Mark throw up, they removed the brain clot.

Eventually, they sent Mark to a convalescent home, but I could tell he wasn’t improving. 

All over the world, people prayed for Mark.

Some were from Reformed traditions, most were Catholics. I’m a Catholic myself, and so I went on pilgrimage. The shrine of Venerable Margaret Sinclair is a five-mile walk from our house, the way made smooth and safe by bicycle paths. Three times I walked to the tomb of Edinburgh’s very own modern saint, twice with a friend, once by myself, praying all fifteen decades of the traditional rosary on the way. 

When I reached Venerable Margaret’s shrine, I would kneel or lie smack-down on my face to show her how serious I was.

And I would say something like, “Venerable Margaret, it would make so many of your fellow Scots happy if you asked Our Lord to take away Mark’s brain tumor. If you do that, and the tumor disappears, and the doctors say it’s miraculous, then we can get your cause for sainthood advanced. And how happy all the Catholics in Scotland would be. So do it for your fellow Scots, Venerable Margaret.” 

Mark, meanwhile, was declining. He became delirious and fell down. He was taken to Emergency for X-rays, and the doctors discovered his tumor was growing. It had to come out, or he would die. 

When Catholics hope to prove that a holy person is in heaven by asking their intercession for a miracle, we try not to pray to other holy people for the same miracle. Of course, we know exactly Who works the miracle. We just don’t always know whose prayers most moved Him to do it. 

But despite my determined little marches to the shrine of Venerable Margaret Sinclair, I begged the intercession of His Blessed Mother, too. I also brought holy oil touched to relics of two different saints, sent to me by friends (one in Rome, one in Arizona), and anointed Mark’s poor head. 

Mark was slipping fast. When he signed the release forms, I had to take the pen away and sign under the long scribble to testify that that was indeed my husband’s signature. Then I said goodbye to him in the operating theatre and went home. 

Well, Venerable Margaret let me down in one respect: the tumor didn’t just disappear. The surgeon had to cut it out, stopping just short of the cell layer on Mark’s brain stem. He phoned to say Mark was still alive; how permanent the damage was would not be obvious for 48 hours. 

The next morning, October 13, I went to the hospital not knowing if Mark would recognize me.  I prayed 15 whole decades on the bus ride there, begging Our Lady of Fatima for a special present: that Mark would be made entirely well. 

When I found him in the Intensive Care Unit, he had a breathing tube stuffed down his throat, and couldn’t speak. But when he saw me, he mouthed “I love you.” 

“I love you, too,” I said and added, “It’s the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima today.”

That must be the human explanation for why he started shouting as doctors removed his breathing apparatus, “Darling, darling, call [our priest], I’m dying...and her Immaculate Heart will triumph!” 

For three days, Mark’s mind shuttled between two thoughts: that the doctors were trying to kill him — a belief common to people after anesthesia — and that our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will triumph. 

The head surgeon was enormously pleased. Delirium aside, Mark’s recovery was unusually and unexpectedly rapid. 

He was pleased again when, three months later, we returned for Mark’s check-up. After shaking Mark’s hand, the surgeon sat across from him and stared avidly into his face. 

“Nothing asymmetrical,” he said.

This was the first indication we had that Mark’s face might have become partially paralyzed after the operation. But whatever side-effects the surgeon feared, Mark didn’t have any of them.

“It’s pretty miraculous,” said the surgeon. 

“He said the M-word ! He said the M-word!” Mark observed afterward. “Miraculous!”

And my heart sank a little. This was not because I was ungrateful for God’s great mercy, but because I wasn’t sure whose intercession to thank, and if I owed the priest in charge of Venerable Margaret’s cause an email.  

On the one hand, I made all those pilgrimages to Venerable Margaret, and the Catholics of Edinburgh would be delighted if we could attribute a miracle to her heavenly intercession. 

But, on the other hand, when I begged for Mark’s complete post-operative healing, I turned to the greatest saint of them all. And when my husband was able to speak, he shouted, again and again: “Her Immaculate Heart will triumph!” 

Some may wonder why it matters to me to find out who to thank: a miracle is a miracle, and miracles come from God. That’s certainly true, and I’m so happy my husband is better. But I  hoped that if there was a miracle, it would bring joy, not just to us, but to all the Catholic Scots who pray for Venerable Margaret’s intercession. However, given my last plea for healing, and the dramatic way it was answered, I think we can chalk this one up to the Immaculate Heart. 

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Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and regularly contributes to Catholic World Report.  Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013).  Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.