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Don't Believe in Miracles--Expect Them!

Don't Believe in Miracles--Expect Them!

My Health Saga

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So there I was in the late 80s, sick, almost bedridden and having to use most of my energy just to get out of bed in the morning.

I had "symptoms" of a number of major diseases and if that were not enough, my doctor said I had about six months to live. His only advice was to get my affairs in order.

Fast-forward to late 2007, and I was thinking of Yogi Berra who eloquently said, "It's déjà vu all over again." Having just been diagnosed with a dreaded disease, I was in somewhat of an uncomfortable and awkward position similar to one that I had experienced more than twenty years earlier. Although the circumstances were not unique, they were still discomforting. My thought was that the doctor's six month "verdict" might finally be coming true.

My priorities included checking out rehabilitation/nursing facilities in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida, if my proposed operation went well. Being the eternal optimist, I anticipated a recovery period from what I thought would be a strenuous operation to remove a growth near my small intestine.

Like many people, I want my soul to go to Heaven. But not right now.

Since I had some time to ponder things while I was being treated prior to the operation, I also prepared for my funeral in case things did not work out as I hoped they would. I wrote Like many people, I want my soul to go to Heaven. But not right now. my own obituary and in reviewing my life I realized that the older I got the better I was. Why leave these things for others to write when I can write fiction just as well as anyone else? I wrote some wonderful words for family members to say about me. This would have been a command performance since there is no way my sister would have ever said such nice things unless I wrote them and she was caught up in the emotion of the funeral. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning of my latest health saga.

Although I went to Hebrew school for four years and had my Bar Mitzvah in an Orthodox synagogue, I have never been very religious. I do not practice my religion as is done by a dedicated or observant Jew.

In spite of that, I do have a profound belief in G‑d and in miracles.

Over the last two decades, my beliefs have been strengthened by significant health issues that have occurred in my own life and in the life of my mother. In each case, the doctors were specific in what the scientific and medical communities said were the health issues.

However, the results turned out to be for the good in spite of the dire diagnosis originally given.

The circumstances have provided quite a journey.

Here are two stops along the way.

As I said, in 2007, my life was turned upside down with the most dreaded medical word.

Cancer.

It started one night in which I threw up and passed a significant amount of blood…big time. If I had any brains, I would have been in the hospital that night. However, since I am a manly type of guy, I decided to tough it out and wait until the next day to speak with my doctor.

I was told how stupid I was for not seeking immediate help…and that was one of the nicer comments.

Following blood tests in the morning I was called by my doctor to see if I could come back to have the blood tests done again. The doctors thought that since the first testing showed me to be in such bad shape that the lab must have made a mistake.

After the second testing, I was put in the hospital immediately with an operating team virtually waiting for me at the door.

Through a scope to my stomach, it was determined that this was not the area in which the bleeding began. A colonoscopy also revealed no source of bleeding.

I spent a few days in the hospital while getting blood transfusions that stabilized my situation.

The next option was to have a Capsule Endoscopy whereby I swallowed a pill-sized camera to see what might show up as it passed through my system.

The Israeli-made camera takes two pictures a second. This is 120 pictures a minute; 7,200 pictures an hour; 57,600 pictures during the eight hours I was monitored by a small, computer like device worn on my belt.

This revealed a potential source of the bleeding. Unfortunately, it also revealed something my doctor was not even looking for…a cancerous growth in or near my small intestine.

He was somewhat depressed while speaking with me so I know he was almost as shocked as I was.

Thunderstruck. Dumbfounded. Stunned. Staggered.

There are no appropriate words to describe the feeling of desperation when the word cancer is spoken when it pertains to you, a loved one or friend.

With cancer running through many generations of my family, this was the last thing in the world I wanted to hear.

After the initial shock had worn off, I was realistic and felt that it is what it is. I was faced with the choice If you think Allstate is good…when you have a Chabad rabbi on your side you are truly in very good hands. of self-pity or a positive attitude. Self-pity is not my style but a positive attitude was not high on my list at the time.

Rabbi Zvi Konikov, Director of Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coasts), his wife Shulamit and their fine children leapt to my defense with a great attitude, enthusiastic encouragement and support the likes of which I did not deserve but greatly appreciated.

If you think Allstate is good…when you have a Chabad rabbi on your side you are truly in very good hands.

The first order of business was for Rabbi Konikov to inquire as to whether or not my mezuzahs were checked recently.

(Our sages teach us that if we place mezuzahs on our doorposts, the Almighty will protect our homes and us. Mezuzahs should be checked by a trained scribe at least twice every seven years.)

Mezuzahs? Checked recently? How about never?

As soon as the question was asked, I knew I was in trouble... I did not have a mezuzah at each doorpost…just one mezuzah at my front door. Not only was it installed incorrectly, but also, to my horror, it did not have any scroll inside!

Rabbi Konikov to the rescue.

The Konikov family gave me four mezuzahs…one for each doorpost in my condominium.

And not just any mezuzahs. These were from known rabbinical scholars in New York and certified to be religiously proper. I installed them with great solemnity and piety following specific directions on how this was to be done.

The mezuzahs are especially important in that they fill my home space with wholesome energy and place me in a "protect" mode. Before my own need for this protection, I had no idea how important and dynamic the installation of mezuzahs could be.

It is something I should have done decades ago…but it is never too late.

The rabbi asked me to have my son Randy check on the condition of the mezuzahs in his home. Randy is an observant Jew and understood immediately the reason for the request. Proper and well-maintained mezuzahs in my son's home could have a beneficial effect on me.

What other home security system matches this?

The rabbi and his family could not have demonstrated a more fundamental stance in the fight upon which I was embarking.

As additional "protection," Rabbi Konikov asked if I put on tefillin each day.

The only time I had put on tefillin was following my Bar Mitzvah fifty-four years earlier.

Recognizing that I was possibly in the midst of a desperate struggle, the Konikov family purchased a first class set of tefillin for me.

While I do not put on tefillin daily, I definitely put tefillin on each day in which I have a doctor appointment!

To add luster to our fighting "team," the rabbi's children joined the fray by including me in their prayers.

Being treated by wonderful doctors at Osler Medical in Melbourne and Shands Hospital in Gainesville…lucky for me.

Being prayed for by relatives, friends, synagogue and church members and even friends of mine at the Salvation Army…extraordinary.

Having a rabbi's children include me in their prayers…PRICELESS.

The news looked grim but each time I had a doctor appointment or procedure, Rabbi Konikov sent a letter that was placed on the Rebbe's gravesite in New York. When in New York, Rabbi Konikov would personally place a message at the Rebbe's gravesite on my behalf.

Thanks to my Health First medical plan, I was approved for what Shands Hospital had in store. Shands is a fabulous medical institution where wonderful work is done. I enjoyed the benefit of the latest technology and medical knowledge that turned out to be a great complement to what was provided by my local doctors.

My family jokes that with all the time I spent at Shands I should at least get an employee discount.

At Shands, a growth was removed from an area near my small intestine.

The doctors were not sure if the growth removed was the one that originally showed up when I swallowed the camera.

That growth was the one thought to be malignant. The growth removed turned out to be non-cancerous.

A follow up Capsule Endoscopy showed that the growth originally thought to be cancer was gone. It had, indeed, been the one that was removed.

To use a baseball metaphor, I had just hit a home run!

Just like that…no cancer.

Over a five-month period, I was in a place that I never want to be in again. While my relief is profound, I cannot even imagine what a person goes through when their results turn out to be the opposite of mine.

In the blink of an eye, I was thrust into the most fearful medical situation I could imagine. In just another blink, I was "cured."

Was it just an accident, wrong diagnosis, coincidence or just one of those "unexplainable" things that happen?

I would not argue with anyone who had any theory on what happened with me. What I know for sure is that I dodged a bullet.

Was it because of the great medical care at Osler Medical and Shands Hospital, mezuzahs, tefillin, the direct result of prayers, kind words on my behalf, the strength and love of the Konikov family or the effort taken to ask for the Rebbe's intercession regarding my health and healing?

Yes!

What is interesting is that I was not as scared for myself as I had been In the blink of an eye, I was thrust into the most fearful medical situation. In just another blink, I was "cured." for my mother each time she was fighting one of her numerous cancer attacks during her lifetime. Maybe I was immune from overt fear after already living past the six months I was given to live over twenty years earlier due to other medical problems.

Maybe it was the encouraging "may you only hear good news" words from the rabbi and his wife.

It is obvious that my family and friends had been through this ordeal with a lot more fear and anxiety than I had experienced. There is no way to properly thank them for their prayers and concern on my behalf.

And how can I thank the Konikov family enough for providing me with tefillin and the four mezuzahs…the ultimate home security device!

My belief in miracles is strong because of another incident involving my mother's much more serious bout with cancer.

She fought cancer for decades before she died in 1997. All the major…meaning the worst…types of cancer befell her. She was a fighter, though, and never gave up. My mother would not even acknowledge the possibility of defeat although she was a realist and felt that "what will be will be."

In spite of the many types of cancer, she simply died peacefully, tired at the time of her death—probably from the decades of fighting the various cancers.

At the time she died, however, she was free of cancer.

And therein we find the heart of this true story.

When she was seventy-three, she was diagnosed with the worst of her encounters—lung cancer. The outlook was grim at best with little if any optimism on the doctor's part.

We engaged the best surgeons available at the time. The operation started early in the morning but in a very short time the surgeons came out to see me. It seems that when they opened up her chest, the surgeons saw that the situation was even worse than they had expected. The cancer had spread from her lungs to her chest cavity.

Being in desperate shape would be the understatement of the year.

When I asked for the prognosis, they told me that she probably would not last the day but if she did, she might last a few days, maybe even weeks, but at the most, she could only hope to last a few months.

When she came out of the anesthesia, my mind was blank and I could not even think of how to tell her that she would probably die that day and would only have mere days or weeks if she made it through the day.

It was at this time that I remembered what all kids should know and what I had fought against most of my life, especially as a teenager: Mothers know everything!

You can be as deceitful as you want. You can lie through your teeth and even provide "proof" of the lie. You can hide all your bad deeds and bad news. All to no avail.

They know!

My mother was no exception. And this time was no exception.

"It's pretty bad, isn't it Bobby?"

She followed that up with encouraging words and optimism that took all the pressure off me. The sadness on my part was there, however, as I shared the "official" word from the surgeons.

At the time I knew a woman who had many friends in different congregations. From California to New York and back to Florida, groups of people were praying for my mother. She was a beloved person to anyone who knew her.

Here is the interesting part of the story.

Believe it if you want or consider it a hoax… The moral of my mother’s story is not just that miracles are possible; it is that you should never give up. but what I am about to share with you is the absolute truth. It is hearsay to you because you were not there to see and hear for yourself so I understand any doubters. For me though, I was there…I saw the scanning images…I spoke with her doctors and the surgeons myself. And I was there for another decade enjoying the life and company of my mother.

To whatever you choose with which to ascribe her "cure," one thing is a fact: within a year, her cancer was gone.

I do not mean she was operated on and the cancer removed. I mean that the cancer disappeared with no help from the surgeons.

The operation never took place as the surgeons simply sewed her up when they saw how far the cancer had spread to her chest cavity. The surgeons felt that since they would not be able to eliminate the cancer, continuing with the operation would put more pressure on her body than was necessary.

So there you have it.

My mother's doctors said she had lung cancer. The scanning images showed that she had lung cancer. The surgeons saw with their own eyes the lung cancer and how it had spread. Nevertheless, here we were a year later with no cancer and no medical explanation as to what took place.

I have spoken with and read about a number of doctors that treat serious illnesses such as cancer who have shared similar experiences. Although they have no explanation, they certainly understand the power of prayer.

With the prayers of people all over the country, my mother lived for another ten years in good health for her eighty-three years.

The moral of my mother's story is not just that miracles are possible; it is that you should never give up.

Never!

Let the doctors worry about your wellbeing, which is their job. Your job is to lead a positive life as normal or near normal as you can make it.

Do not just believe in miracles.

Expect them!

Bob Barnes, whose background has been in broadcasting and mortgage business, is a full-time volunteer at Chabad of the Space & Treasure Coasts. He has two children and two grandchildren.
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Anonymous NY state May 1, 2014

PARKINSON'S DISEASE I just found out I have early stage of Parkinson's disease. I feel fine most days. Please pray for me. Some days I can't believe this. I am otherwise a healthy. Person-don't drink/smoke. Go to temple every week. Reply

Barbara California November 19, 2012

what an inspiring story I too am going thru breast cancer. It is diffficult to face but I keep positive and Chabad locally too has checked my messusos and came to read psalms and prayers. I am praying for a miracle that i can get my chemo done and be cancer free soon...have had some panel bumps in road on enzymes that are elevated. Your stories give me hope and know Hashem is listening. Thanks for sharing, Bob. Reply

Dina S. Romeo Memphis, TN via jewishmemphis.com October 22, 2010

my cousins life My favorite cousin has cancer and it has spread to other organs.... after reading this story I believe that there is hope and I thank you for sharing. Reply

Esther Bautista Santa Maria, CA March 22, 2010

Amen Amen! I expect them to be happening pretty soon! Reply

Anonymous July 5, 2009

What an amazing story of faith! I have been dealing with similar circonstance and it is good that i read this article. It gives me hope for someone who believed so much in miracle! Thank you for sharing it. Reply

Kayo Tokyo, Japan June 22, 2009

Baruch HaShem Many thanks for letting us know this great encouraging reality. Reply

Malka Miami, Florida June 21, 2009

Bob's miracles Bob, your story is amazing, and your writing made it so alive, so immediate. Baruch Hashem, you had the Konikovs as your "home base" of spiritual protection. And that you listened to their advice...kol h'kavod! I once put up several kosher mezuzahs in my parents home during one of my mother's end of life illnesses. I didn't manage to do all their doorways, but I tried to hit the main spots, front door, back door, kitchen, master bedroom, etc. A year or so later, they weren't there, and my father's response was that when they had the house painted they decided not to put them back up?!?! Well, I did what I could, and now that they're both in the "world of truth" they know the whole story.
But we had our miracles, as well, and with absolute certainty, I can say that each one of them came into actuality through a representative of the Rebbe, the commander and chief of "the power of postive thinking!
Please continue sharing your story in good health, 'til 120! Reply

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