Isabella Auer has used her Catholic faith to deal with her diagnosis of a rare brain cancer. Photo courtesy of Isabella Auer

Keeping faith during cancer diagnosis

By  Sarah Wentzell, Youth Speak News
  • October 23, 2019

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Auer’s diagnosis of cancer has not made her path easy, but she has risen to accept her disease with faith and courage.

Auer, who lives in Ohio, was diagnosed in May with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). DIPG is a rare brain cancer that affects about 30 children in Canada every year. Just 10 per cent survive two years after their diagnosis. 

Auer has already surmounted several challenges that have arisen from her illness. 

“After a biopsy surgery, I had to learn how to walk and use my right hand again,” said Auer. “I overcame them through different therapies, namely physical and occupational,”

Auer said her Catholic faith has brought her a great deal of comfort and helped her to accept her condition. 

“My faith has helped me to accept my diagnosis by reminding me that I am part of something bigger than myself or earthly comfort,” Auer said. 

She is asking for the intercession of Blessed Chiara Badano, a 19-year-old Italian girl who died in 1990 of bone cancer. Badano faced many hardships during her illness, including the loss of her ability to walk, but she steadfastly remained dedicated to Jesus. She even declined to take morphine, choosing instead to offer her pain to Jesus. 

“When I was in the hospital in May, her story inspired me and has since that time,” said Auer. 

“I feel like Blessed Chiara Badano’s story is important for youth.”

Auer also mentioned one of her favourite quotes from Badano: “I have nothing left, but I still have my heart and with that I can always love.” 

Ayer expressed how her spiritual beliefs have affected her view of earthly life in relation to a heavenly one. 

“My faith has reminded me that this world only has so much to offer and that the real goal is Heaven,” she said. “It has caused me to see the good in others more easily, in particular, and it has given me hope for the future.”

Auer writes on a blog, aroseamidstthorns.blogspot.com, which is filled with inspirational writing and quotes from saints such as Mother Teresa and John Paul II. She also includes her own stories. 

In an earlier post, she talked about following one’s dreams and the perseverance needed to accomplish such dreams. She also spoke about living a life of virtue and holiness.

“True joy comes from Christ and can carry one through any trial that life throws at you. True joy comes from picking up our crosses and following Christ as best we can.”

Auer’s diagnosis has spurred her into new directions. A homeschooled student, she decided to focus on her love of writing. This year, she is studying novel-writing and classical literature. 

“I have started living in a more relaxed and flexible lifestyle. We aren’t given our lives to stress ourselves out over things such as strict schedules or structure,” Auer said.

In May, Auer self-published a novel, Daughter of Kings, which is available on Amazon. 

“I didn’t wish to die without publishing a work and this book was the one story I had finished and had on my computer,” she said.

“Writing is a way for me to express myself. Stories have always been a big part of my life, so it is important for me to be able to tell my own stories through writing.” 

This summer, she made a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She wanted to finally meet a good friend, Jackie Marker of Mount Vernon, Wash., whom she met online three years ago through a homeschool chess club but had never talked to in person.

Her wish was granted when she spent the day whale watching and participating in a formal tea party with Marker at Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Wash. 

Marker said Auer has not let her cancer weaken her faith, in spite of adversity. 

“Although there were moments when she questioned why this was happening to her, she didn’t let this question lead her to doubt in God’s divine love for her,” she said. “Instead, I have seen her grow stronger than ever in her faith and trust in God,” 

For Marker, Auer has also been a source of great inspiration. 

“By her beautiful actions, she has shown me what it is to be a true Catholic. I strive each and every day to be more like her.”

Auer offered advice to others coping with illnesses.

“Try to find comfort in your faith communities and accept the love that people give you.”

(Wentzell, 16, is a Grade 11 student in Seton Home Study School in Thunder Bay, Ont.)

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