"I have to be at the doctor's office by
9:30," Willie told me with dread
in her voice. My neighbor was
preparing for her annual colonoscopy.
The day before the test, she was at
home, drinking the prescribed liquid.
The following day, her test was over
in a half hour; her doctor would get
back with her test results.
A Sigh of Relief
After her test, we chatted about how
good it felt now that it was over. We
agreed that any medical test—blood
work, scans, MRIs—may cause stress.
We both know we need to be good
stewards of our bodies, and medical
tests are a necessity. But we also agreed
we felt relief when they're over.
Remember, O Most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help
or sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you I come,
before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions, but in your mercy,
hear and answer me. Amen.
Medical tests seem to have three
parts which make us anxious: the time
before the test, the test and the time
after the test. That sounds pretty basic,
but there are three distinct sections.
When our doctor first orders a test,
we place it on our calendar and then
put it at the back of our mind. As the
test date gets closer, we might get anxious
about the upcoming procedure.
We spend energy being nervous about
something yet to happen. We try to
control what we can: finding out where
the test will take place, arranging for a
ride and doing any preparations. We
might also take time to pray: God,
release me from any anxiety that is welling
up inside me before the test.
On the test day, we might feel a
whole new wave of anxiety. We dread
the beige tube of the MRI scanner, the
needles or the x-ray machines.
During the test, I continuously sing a
verse or a line from a hymn in my head. The third verse of the hymn "Whatsoever
You Do" by Willard F. Jabusch is
comforting, especially the line "When
I was anxious you calmed all my fears."
I sometimes sing it dozens of times
during a test. It calms me. We survive,
and leave the test room.
By the time we visit our doctor for
our test results, the worst is over. The
medical tests are finished; we have new
fears to face. Will we need surgery?
Chemo? Has our chronic condition
worsened? After the test I ask: Creator
God, bless my body and be with me—
whatever the outcome.
Some people have no problems taking
medical tests, but for the rest of us,
there are ways to lessen our fears. The
only way I can get through a medical
test is by asking God to accompany
me. During every test, I pray. Sometimes
I pray my favorite prayer, the
Memorare, over and over again, almost
like a mantra. I repeat it many times
when I am going through my dreaded
MRI. When I pray before, during and
after a test, I do not feel so alone.
Holy, Wholly Healthy
journaling.htm. The Web page
SoulfulLiving offers some starter questions
for journaling from Ray Whiting.
Healing Words, by Larry Dossey, M.D. This
1993 New York Times best-seller talks about
the power of prayer and the practice of
As a Franciscan sister who has lived
with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1975,
I have dealt with needles, side effects
from medications, unreliable electric
carts and loss of balance. I have learned
to wait—for handicapped parking
spaces, test results and insurancecompany
approval for medical tests
and medicines. I have seen my own
parents and relatives become ill and
die, and have cried with friends who
were diagnosed with cancer.
Compassionate care involves the
whole person—the physical, emotional,
social and spiritual. This care is
inherently a spiritual activity. Just holding
the hand of a patient can be a
sacred, spiritual act. Little things like
listening to a patient's fears can offer
much comfort. Words are not even
Medical advances have shifted the
focus of medicine from a relational, caring
model to a technical, cure-focused
one. One of the best ways to cope with
health challenges is through the gift of
our faith, weaving spirituality through
the fabric of our health. Whatever
health issues we face, we have at our disposal
healing, helpful resources to make
our situation a little less overwhelming.
Throughout this year, I hope to
share some spiritual coping and comforting
practices in this column, "Holy,
Sister Karen Zielinski,
O.S.F., was director of communications
for the Sisters of
St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio,
from 1991 to 2008. She is
now director of Canticle Studio, for products
which focus on spirituality and health. She
can be contacted at whollyhealthy@