By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PENNDEL – “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform,” William Cowper wrote more than two centuries ago. If one has what is diagnosed as a terminal illness and after prayer it disappears, it’s more than reasonable to assume the miraculous.
Now, if one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and after prayer another medical expert is found who suggests a radical new treatment, and it works, could that not also be attributed to the mysterious way of God?
Teresa Palumbo, a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a kindergarten teacher’s aide in the parish school, certainly believes so.
In March 2006 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after a lumpectomy at a local hospital, she believed the danger was past. Then at a check-up in September 2007 it was discovered the cancer had not been completely eliminated and there was a metastasis of the cancer to her brain. She was given one to three months to live.
She and her husband Nicholas Palumbo stormed heaven with prayer and also decided to get a second opinion. Nicholas arranged for his wife to see Dr. Steven Feigenberg, an oncologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center who specializes in brain tumors.
The treatment Dr. Feigenberg and his associate Dr. Crystal Denlinger suggested was a sophisticated technique called stereotactic radio surgery. For this procedure a special helmet was securely fastened to Palumbo’s head, and over the course of a full day a high dose of radiation was precisely delivered through the helmet into the cancer.
After her treatment and a short period of recovery, Palumbo returned to her beloved kindergarten class at Our Lady of Grace where her grandchildren, Nicole and Abigail, attend. Her newest granddaughter Madeline may someday be in the beloved kindergarten where Palumbo has assisted for the past 16 years.
In no way does Palumbo minimize the skill of her oncologists and the staff at Fox Chase, but nevertheless she declares, “I believe I received a mini-miracle.” For her, the doctors were the answer to prayers.
As a cancer survivor she knows it is always one day at a time. “The hardest thing mentally is the fear of it coming back,” she said.
Prayer has gotten her through and continues to do so. Every morning finds her at 7 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Grace, and she often visits the nearby shrine of St. Katharine Drexel, where her husband serves as a weekend extraordinary minister of holy Communion.
It was at that shrine where Palumbo often prayed during her darkest hours, at times joined by Blessed Sacrament Sister Joan Burns.
There were also the prayers of her husband and children, Teresa, Nicholas III, Anthony and Matthew, and of her fellow teachers.
But most of all, she believes, it was the children.
“The children make you want to fight. They can make you laugh and they can make you cry. There is wonder and awe in children, and I love them as much as they love me. Children have power in their prayer,” she said.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.