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Strong Faith, Prayer Credited in 9-year-old's Cancer Recovery
Rick Snizek
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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Bishop Tobin greets Sydney Khoury outside the rectory of St. Philip Church in Greenville May 31.
GREENVILLE, R.I. (CNS)—With quiet confidence, Sydney Khoury climbed each step of a metal ladder as she positioned herself to place a crown of flowers atop a statue of Mary at St. Philip Church.

It was a bit of a reach for Sydney, but with determination, the 9-year-old extended her arms, carefully placing her tribute atop the head of the mother of Jesus for the church's May crowning this year.

A short distance away, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin watched admiringly as the St. Philip School second-grader successfully met yet another challenge in her young life.

Three years ago, Bishop Tobin also witnessed Sydney overcome one her greatest challenges. At that time, as she lay in the intensive care unit of Hasbro Children's Hospital with her life hanging in the balance, the bishop prayed over her with a relic of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

Sydney's parents say the prayerful intervention yielded results nothing short of miraculous, because very quickly after the blessing she began the road to recovery.

While he is cautious about attributing Sydney's recovery solely to divine intervention, Bishop Tobin said the day he visited her in the hospital was a powerful day indeed.

"I always tend to be skeptical of these divine interventions, but it is very clear to me that something very special happened that day," Bishop Tobin told the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Providence Diocese.

In November 2007, Sydney was diagnosed with a stage-three malignant tumor on her kidney. Two days later, doctors removed her kidney and started her on a treatment regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. The overall success rate of the treatment was only 42 percent they were told.

For nearly three months, her condition was stable. Then, a robust round of chemotherapy quickly took its toll on her.

"She started five days of chemo. It hit her so hard," her mother, Michele, recalled in an interview with.

Sydney went into what is known as a neutropenic state, as her white-blood cell count dropped to zero, severely limiting her body's ability to fight off infections.

"She was home for three days; on the fourth, she caught a fever," Michele said.

Sydney was immediately brought into the hospital where she spent nearly all of February 2008 in the intensive care unit. She was intubated twice to maintain an open airway, and also became paralyzed for 12 hours during that time.

On Feb. 20, Michele and Ken Khoury received news that no parent ever wants to hear.
"They couldn't tell me if she'd make it," Michele said. "The doctor said, 'I can't guarantee anything over the next 48 hours.'"

Two days later, Sydney received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. On Feb. 27, with Sydney's condition not improving, doctors performed a lung biopsy.

"Her lungs were just collapsing," her mother recalls.

The next day, with doctors about to have a discussion with the family about their wish to fit Sydney with a tracheotomy tube to help her breathing, Bishop Tobin visited Sydney in the hospital.

As he prayed over her, he held in his hand a relic of Mother Teresa. Known as "first-class relic," sealed inside a reliquary, it is a lock of hair from the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. It was a gift from a priest-friend back in Bishop Tobin's native Pittsburgh who had obtained it in Rome where he worked with the religious order.

What happened next was remarkable.

Both of Sydney's parents and Bishop Tobin witnessed the young girl's body convulse during the prayers for her recovery.

"Very quickly after that, she got well," Michele said of her daughter's health. "He did the blessing and she didn't need the tracheotomy."

"When she was blessed with the relic, her body reacted and she opened her eyes," the bishop recalled.

To ensure any possible recurrence of cancer is treated immediately, Sydney must undergo an MRI every three months. Her most recent test showed that she is still in remission.

"Her spirits are great," Sydney's dad, Ken, said of his daughter.

In addition to the unwavering support of family and friends throughout, the Khourys say they cannot thank the St. Philip school and parish community enough for helping the family navigate through their crisis, as well as the continual support they give.

"Our family and friends had one of Sydney's hands, and the school and the church had the other," Michele said.

"The way they got involved, it was like they were doing it for their own families," Ken said of the St. Philip community.

For the Khoury family, there is no underestimating the impact that prayer can have on a life.

"The amount of prayers got God's attention," Michele said. "I really feel that through the power of prayer she has been healed," Michele said. "It's amazing. It's a miracle."

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