Ordinary Miracles

The following story was written by the Team Angels Founder, Rosalba Primavera Pacella. It is the story of her Brother Nick and his battle with breast cancer. It is also her story about Faith. This story was published in the book ‘Ordinary Miracles; Learning From Breast Cancer Survivors,’ by S. David Nathanson, M.D.

November 30, 1995 is a day that I will never forget. It was the beginning of a miracle that I call “angels on earth”. The year 1989 was the beginning of my Brother Nick’s battle against breast cancer. He was only 37 years old. He was happily married; he had a loving wife, and two beautiful children that he adored. One day he discovered a lump on his breast and made an appointment with his family doctor to get it checked. After being examined, Nick was referred to a well known surgeon for evaluation, the doctors’ prognosis was: it is nothing to worry about. “What are the chances of a man having breast cancer?” said the surgeon.

A year or so went by and Nick was still worried about the lump that had invaded his breast. (He had made several trips to the surgeon’s office and nothing was done about the lump). A date was set for Nick to have surgery, not because of the lump, but because of a hernia that needed immediate attention. Nick took this opportunity to request that the lump on his breast be removed because he was not comfortable with it being there, and the surgeon agreed to remove it. Everyone in our family was concerned about his surgery, (because there is always a risk any time an individual has an operation). However, we were confident that everything would be fine. No one had prepared us for what was about to happen, our world crashing down on us, most of all on Nicks, his wife and children. The doctor coming out of surgery in shock giving my sister in law the bad news “it is breast cancer”.

Cancer is a word that no one ever wants to hear, there was no history of cancer in our family. How could this be, was this a mistake? What were they going to do next? Could they save him? Was I going to lose my big brother? How was I going to tell my parents, they were thousands of miles away from us and did not have a clue about any of this? I had so many questions and no answers. All I could do was pray, and ask God for a miracle, the miracle of life. The day after all of this madness, a second surgery was preformed on Nick to remove any cancer that was left behind. Many lymph nodes were removed and send out to be checked by a lab. (Of course at that time we did not have sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine which lymph nodes where cancer). When the results came back a few were positive, and Nick needed several treatments of chemo. Time went on and Nick seemed to be doing better. He went back to work, but was always worried that the cancer would return. In November, 1995 his fear became a reality. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after passing out at work. A cat-scan was done of his brain. After a long waiting period the doctor walked in-to his room and said: you have a brain tumor and I am pretty sure that it has mast sized from your breast. No one could comfort Nick he was crying hysterically and could not say a word.

A few days later surgery was performed, a tumor the size of a golf ball was removed from his brain. He was left partially paralyzed from the surgery. He was told you are going to need radiation and a lot of aggressive therapy, you won’t be able to drive anymore and you won’t be able to work. Nick was devastated, all he new was work, he had been working since he was 12 years old. As time went by he learned to accept it, he did not feel sorry for himself and he did not want petty from anyone. He always looked at people that had it worse then him. He was thankful to be alive, and to see his children grow up. Five years went by and the cancer returned this time in his spine, after two major surgeries and treatments, I could tell the end was near. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could. He enjoyed talking about all his spiritual experiences that he had trough out these years and told me that he was not afraid to die because he had seen heaven in a dream. He went on by telling me that the previous night angels came to visit him. I looked at him and I tough that he was kidding me because he new how much I believed in angels. You should have been here he said, this room was full of angels they were climbing on my bed and on the dresser. They were baby angels and they were all dressed in pink, only one of them was dressed in blue. I knew then that he was not kidding that he really had seen a team of angels.

On November 30, 1995 the day after my brother’s surgery. My mom and I went to the hospital to visit Nick. We walked into his room, and I could tell that he was in a lot of discomfort; his head was all bandaged up. Tears began rolling down my face, I felt helpless, my big brother the one that was always there for me, was in great need, but there was nothing I could do for him to lessen his pain. How could this be, why was this happening, why Nick? Tears were rolling down my face. Nick looked at me and then looked at his wife. “Tell my sister not to look at me” he replied. I did not want to see him upset, so I left the room. I sat by myself on a chair in the waiting area by the elevator, crying my eyes out and questioning God why Nick? I Prayed to God to get him through this and to spare his life. A young woman approached me she was dressed in old fashion clothes she looked like she just stepped out of another century. She tried to start up a conversation with me, but I didn’t pay much attention to her, so she left the waiting area. I was left there along with my questions and my anger. I wanted answers, is there really a God? Why does he allow all this suffering, why wasn’t he helping Nick? What did Nick ever do that he deserved to suffer like that? He was a good person always willing to help others. Why? God! In the mean time the woman that had approached me before returned. She sat by me introduced herself as Magdalene and asked why are you crying? I began to open up to her and told her how sick my brother was and how worried I was. At this time she got up from her chair grabbed my hand and said to me: your brother has always been there for you hasn’t he? Yes I replied. Did you tell him that you have seen him at his worst and that you still love him? I just looked at her with tears in my eyes. Once in a while God shakes us up, because if everything goes our way we forget about Him, she said. She went on to saying: Jesus is my brother let’s pray for your brother. I know you are in despair and you don’t believe, but you must not lose your faith, everything that happens, happens for a reason and God knows what is best for us. When God calls upon your brother it is because that is what is best for him. He has a better place waiting for him; a place were there is no pain, no suffering only peace. The amazing thing is that when this woman was holding my hand and praying I felt something that cannot be described or explained, a sense of peace that I have never known. Her eyes and mine were locked together, her voice was soft and soothing, I wasn’t aware of my breathing, my heart beat, or anything around me. I felt safe, secured and at peace. I heard a voice that seemed to be coming from far away (when in fact it came from behind me) it was my mother checking up on me. “Rosalba who is this woman?” she said. I answered she claims that Jesus is her brother! Jesus is her brother? My mother replied. Maybe she is an angel said my mom (in Italian). I looked at the lady that had comfort me in my time of need and translated what my mom had said. She hugged me and said no I am not an angel, but “Thank you, you helped me a lot” no I replied you are the one that helped me, I was here all alone crying and you came to comfort me. “We helped each other then” God spoke these words she said. “When two or more gather together in my name and pray I am in the mist”. My Mother and I said goodbye to Magdalene and went back to Nick’s room. We spent a few minutes with him, said our goodbyes and went on our way. As we headed towards the hallway, there she was again, right across Nick’s room. (At the time I taught what a coincidence, but now I now that there are no coincidence in life, everything is already planed). Standing there with another woman she introduced to us as her mother. I have told this story to family members, friends and acquaintances. Some of them believe just like me that she was a messenger of God that came to comfort me in my time of need. Others think that I felt something that wasn’t really there. I have always believed in angels and feel that they are here for us when we need them. My experience was extraordinary one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I came to the conclusion that: some things cannot be explained and not to question why because God is in control not us. However we do have a choice in the way we react. We all make mistakes, but what is important is that, we learn from them. We all have lessons to learn and we are on this earth to do Gods work that alone is a miracle.

On July 29, 2003 my loving brother lost his battle against breast cancer. What a fighter he was. What an inspiration he was to me and to so many people. His faith in God and his will to live was amazing. He was a believer of what our eyes could not see. He had faith, not fear. He fought the cancer with everything he had till the end. He loved his family so much, and was convinced that he was going to beat it. However his journey on earth was over, and God called him home. Saying good-by to my brother was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But he left us with many beautiful memories, and left behind a legacy that will go on. A TEAM OF ANGELS. (www.teamangelsfoundation.org ) As he took his last breath he took a piece of my hearth with him. As I said goodbye Nick! Kissed him on his forehead and told him that I loved him and that I would see him in my dreams; from the corner of my eye I saw a bright light. It reminded me of the bright light that he kept on seeing weeks before he passed. I new then, that he was in the arms of an angel, and on his way home to be with God.

You may purchase a copy of Dr. Nathanson’s book in all major stores where books are sold or you may email the author directly at dnathan1@hfhs.org.