A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Butterflies and the Blanket

by Anne Kerrigan

by Anne Kerrigan

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

“Lord, ….let our prayers become part of the fabric of this blanket, saturating each thread to bring healing with each stitch. Please comfort and cover the recipient with your love through this blanket.”

Graceland Baptist Church, New Albany, Indiana. This is the prayer that is said before each meeting of the Prayer Blanket Ministry.

The routine mammogram, which revealed a suspicious mass, started my journey. The biopsy was positive, and that started a mélange of tests. Finally, the surgery on June 24, 2014, resulted in the removal of the malignant tumor. The lymph nodes were negative, so the cancer was apparently totally eliminated from my body. I was considered cancer free at that point. But, in order to destroy any wandering cancer cells which may have escaped detection, radiation therapy was recommended.

As I reflect on the events of these past few months, the entire scenario seems surreal. It is hard to internalize the reality of one’s own mortality. A cancer diagnosis has that effect on one’s psyche, no matter how positive the ultimate outcome might appear. My world, as I knew it, was over.

Catapillar hactchingNow, it’s on to the next phase of my treatment plan, the radiation. The machine occupied the center of the room, claiming its position of importance. Modern technology certainly is imposing. I had arrived in the room, armed only with my prayer blanket, a gift from a friend. The technicians helped me onto the table, and worked at positioning me properly so that the radiation hit its mark. When I was correctly positioned, I was able to relax a bit. Surprisingly, when I looked up at the ceiling, I saw butterflies. Eight of the ceiling tiles, directly above the table, were decorated with a mélange of lovely, colorful butterflies. Focusing on the butterflies helped to take my mind off the very daunting machine which was about to surround me.

I envisioned the caterpillar during its metamorphosis, and how frightened he must be of the unknown, just as I was. For the caterpillar, the end result was becoming a butterfly. For me, even in the short time between my diagnosis and this moment, the end result is a greater appreciation for the continued gift of life. The reality of death has a tendency to provide perspective. This transition, both for the caterpillar and myself, certainly meant letting go of one way of thinking and entering into another way of processing who we have grown to be.  The caterpillar had become a butterfly and I had become a cancer patient, hopefully, a survivor. We have both entered our new normal!

When the technicians had finished their preparations, they did a last minute review. Everything was in place, me included. Since the room was cold, they covered me with my prayer blanket, a lovely cotton “throw” blanket. It was the perfect size, and it helped to protect me against the chill of the room.

I was as comfortable as it is possible to be when one is about to receive a dose of radiation. The technicians explained that this would not be a long process at all, just a few minutes. They were ready, and so was I.

Peacock ButterflyI closed my eyes as the clicking and whirring sounds started. I imagined the butterflies fluttering above my head as I felt the warmth of the blanket surrounding me. I pictured myself in a lovely field, under the warm sun on a bright summer day. Then, I envisioned myself covered in the love and best wishes of all the wonderful people praying for me during my journey to recovery. I was able to visualize my husband, family, and friends who have all been supporting me during these months of treatment. In fact, just at the moment I was to be linked with the machine, a group of retired friends from Good Samaritan Hospital where I work, was having lunch together, a lunch I was missing due to my date with my own personal “Transformer.” They toasted me in love and prayer, and the blanket reminded me of my connection with them. So many people were with me on this first day of radiation! The blanket acted as a conduit for the love and unending support of all those many people thinking about me and praying for me as this saga unfolds. I felt their presence. They were all with me in that machine.

The prayer blanket brought all that together for me. It enabled me to actually feel the love and prayers of the people who made the blanket as well as the caring of so many others. The experience also allowed me to tangibly feel God’s presence with me in that room of electrons and steel.

I am blessed among women,
and my cup runneth over.

“Thou art blessed among women.”
Luke 1:28.
(The angel Gabriel, speaking to Mary.)

“He who is mighty has done
great things for me.”
From the Magnificat,
Mary’s hymn of praise to God.

“My cup runneth over.” Psalm 23.   

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