I found the lump at the end of Lent.
My husband was out of town, and I was swamped with work and caring for our five kids. Never one to do a regular self-check (more likely to resolve to “do it next month”), I can’t remember exactly how or when I noticed the small lump in my breast — except that it was obvious once I did.
Only because I hadn’t been to see my midwife in more than a year did I make an appointment for the routine checkup, figuring I’d mention it to her in passing. Instead, I watched her expression shift the second she felt the lump, too.
I found myself at my first mammogram on Holy Thursday. The radiologist insisted I return for a biopsy the next morning, so I spent Good Friday in pain. We waited all weekend for the results we dreaded were coming. I learned it was cancer on Easter Monday.
Never have we had a harder Holy Week. Never have I clung to the sacred mysteries more.
Now we find ourselves again in Ordinary Time, yet life is anything but normal. As we got swept into the whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, follow-up tests, painful procedures, second opinions and difficult decisions, I had to step back from work, literally overnight. I started treatment and lost my hair. We crumpled up every plan we had for the summer and started preparing for surgery in the fall.
Yet the quiet space of Ordinary Time still brings me hope for what might lie ahead: a return to a new version of life, changed but not ended.
Liturgical living does not simply mean fancy desserts on special feasts or wearing the right colors on the right days. At its deepest level, the liturgical rhythms of the Church remind us that our whole life is modeled on Christ’s dying and rising. We cycle through patterns of preparing and waiting, suffering and repenting, celebrating and rejoicing — growing in wisdom as we seek to live out the central truths of our faith.
As I sink to the depths of grief and fear, and as I try to rise to the hope of healing and resurrection, I lean into the liturgical seasons as a source of comfort, knowing there is no part of this current agony that Christ himself has not known.
I had no family history of breast cancer. I was young and healthy: a non-smoker, a vegetarian, a mother who breastfed all my babies. Everything that was supposed to protect me.
But suffering is woven into the fabric of human existence. None of us is immune. What feels extraordinarily hard has been revealed to me as yet another path through Ordinary Time.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, just days after I was diagnosed, I was scheduled to serve as lector in my parish. Sticking to this commitment felt like the still point in the spinning world, so I took a deep breath and stood up to read these words from the first letter of St. Peter (1:6-7):
“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The only way I can make sense of this present trial is to see it as a wilderness or a desert. Not a permanent place to dwell, but a harsh land in which I must sojourn for a while — knowing that any good that can come forth from this suffering will be for the glory of God.
Thank you to all of you who have reached out to say you missed the column over the past few months. As I return, I am grateful for your prayers for my healing and for my family as we face what the seasons ahead will bring, in this extraordinary Ordinary Time.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is an author, speaker and founder of Mothering Spirit, an online gathering place on parenting and spirituality.