PHOTO: the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the Order of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II
On 22nd April, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Colon Cancer. No one ever wants to hear their doctor utter the words “tumour” or “cancer” – each word inflicting both shock and fear into a person – I was no exception. I recall that the first thing that popped into my head at that moment, was whether the cancer had spread? I would not know for sure until a C-Scan was performed, for which I had to wait another 3+ weeks. Until then, the waiting and uncertainty only fanned the flames of my fears.
In the days leading up to my C-Scan and surgery, I filled my time with the “best medicine”: prayers, positive thoughts, and laughter. I reached out to my family, friends, and to the many people who follow me on my blog and Facebook pages. I was simply overwhelmed by the love and support I received from thousands of people – many of them from people whom I have never met – from all over the world.
In addition, prayers were being said for me by Orthodox and non-Orthodox clergy in the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and Russia.
One of the most inspiring messages I received, one which had a very profound effect on me, was the following, sent by a friend:
“You must remember that you have your work on Nicholas II to complete and it is YOU who have been chosen from above by His Majesty. May God be with you, dear Paul!”
On 14th May, I had my C-Scan, and 3 days later, the doctor called me with the results. I was so relieved to learn that the cancer had not spread to any of my vital organs or my bones. Glory to God for all things!
PHOTO: Paul Gilbert poses in front of his lithograph copy of the original miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, gifted by Ija Schmit(1936-2018) in 1996
The intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II
Just two days before my admission to hospital, I was doing some spring cleaning – simply to keep my mind occupied – when I discovered a large firm envelope hidden behind some boxes in the back of my closet. I discovered that the envelope contained a large 12″ x 15″ colour lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II (seen in photo above).
This icon had been gifted to me back in 2000 by a friend in California. I could not believe that it lay hidden and forgotten alI these years! I was quite overcome with emotion, because I knew that this was an exact lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the same miracle-working icon which has been venerated by Orthodox Christians for more than two decades.
I placed the icon in a frame and hung it on a wall in my home. I then began to pray to God through the intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, to help me get through my surgery and healing. I prayed for strength and courage, and I prayed for good health. Not only do I want to live to a ripe old age, I want to return to my beloved Russia, and I also want to continue my work in clearing the name of Russia’s much slandered Emperor and Tsar.
As some of you may already be aware, I have been considering entering the Russian Orthodox Church for several years now, and during that time have spent many hours in prayer and solitude in Orthodox churches, praying to God and venerating icons of Orthodox saints. In my home, I have icons of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Russian saints, which I venerate on a daily basis.
On the morning of Friday, 20th May, I arrived at Oshawa General Hospital for my surgery. My blood pressure and blood sugars went through the roof! Prior to surgery, my blood pressure exceeded 200!!, that is how stressed I was. When I was taken into the operating room, I repeatedly made the sign of the Orthodox Cross over myself, recited the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and Psalm 23. Just before the anaesthesiologist administered the medication, I was filled with calm and peace . . .
The next thing I knew, I was coming out of the anesthetic in the hospital recovery room. The following morning, the surgeon came to see me and informed me that “the surgery went very well”, that the tumour had been successfully removed. “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2).
I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses at the hospital, all of whom went over and above the call of duty to ensure that I received the best possible care. After spending a few days in Oshawa General, I was sent home. I spent much of my recovery in bed sleeping or resting in my favourite armchair with a cup of tea and a good book. I still have some minor pain, and limited mobilty, however, my health continues to improve with each new day.
My post-surgery care now requires me to have regular blood work done and a C-Scan every six months plus an annual colonoscopy over the next two years. In addition, and despite the fact that the surgeon had successfully removed the tumour, the oncologist informed me that due to the fact that the cancer had penetrated the wall of my colon, that I undergo chemotherapy for a period of 6 months, which I agreed to.
While my cancer was not life-threatening, it could have been. The surgeon informed me that he had also removed three pre-cancerous [changes to cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer] polyps, noting that if I had I left it another year, that my situation would be much worse. I was one of the lucky ones, as the cancer was detected in its early stages.
I am the first to admit that my cancer journey pales in comparison to those of many others, it was a journey which nevertheless has had a profound impact on me, one which God willing, will add many more years to my life, and lead me to fulfill my heartfelt aspiration to enter the Russian Orthodox Church.
© Paul Gilbert. 14 June 2022