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Mum-of-14 thankful for help of medics in cancer fight, but says tumour banished by prayer, not treatment

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 19/12/2015

Angela McCauley refused an operation to treat her colon cancer
Angela McCauley refused an operation to treat her colon cancer

A woman who was diagnosed with colon cancer has claimed the power of prayer helped to cure her of the disease.

Angela McCauley (64) said she left an oncologist at the Ulster Hospital "shocked" when she refused to have an operation to remove a tumour that had been detected months before.

After being diagnosed in April 2010, cancer specialists decided the former grammar school teacher's course of treatment should involve both radiotherapy and chemotherapy to reduce the tumour, after which there should be an op to remove it from her colon.

The mother-of-14, one of whose children is a doctor, said the experts who treated her "do a good job" but she is insistent that their skill and "the power of prayer" combined to heal her.

"I believe that I was cured by both," she said.

Angela was asked if she did not believe the expert medical treatment she had received had played a part in her recovery.

She replied: "He (the doctor) told me emphatically that the treatment the oncology team had agreed on was only to reduce the tumour in preparation for an operation. It would not have removed the tumour."

Originally from Ballynahinch, Angela came forward after reading the story of Rachelle Liggett, who spoke in this newspaper of her belief that the power of prayer helped to cure her cancer.

Angela was 59 when she was given the devastating news that she had stage four cancer.

"I had been bleeding for three years and hadn't told anyone," she explained.

She was finally encouraged to go to the doctor.

Family members, including her doctor daughter Mary (35), accompanied her.

"It was Easter Monday 2010 so the GP surgery was closed, and so I went to the A&E in Downpatrick," Angela said.

"The doctor didn't tell me I had cancer, but I was referred onto the City Hospital and within a few weeks I was diagnosed with fourth stage colon cancer.

"The colonoscopy nurse told me I had malignant bowel cancer. I wasn't really surprised because I was very depressed and down.

"I think that might have manifested my cancer - it didn't matter to me, I just didn't care."

Angela, who attends her local Catholic church in Portaferry, described that trying time as "devastating", but she was supported by her husband Brendan, a former teacher and author.

"I was very weak, but as time went on people encouraged me and my family and friends prayed for me," she said. "That gave me strength. My family and many people prayed for me to be healed."

Angela, who also writes a blog about her faith, said it was when she became a parent that she began her journey to rediscover her faith and visited different denominations.

In October, following the chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she returned to the doctor ahead of the planned operation.

"He examined me with a colonoscopy and could see clearly there was no tumour," she said. "I told him I believed I was cured."

She was then referred to another doctor, who would have performed the operation.

"He interviewed me and was looking at the original X-rays and CAT scans that were taken in May-June time when there was a 9cm tumour," Angela told this paper.

"The doctor was very concerned that here I was saying I was cured. He said from the scans taken weeks previously that he still wanted me to have the operation.

"But I felt I had been cured and there was no tumour. There was no need for the operation - my husband agreed with me."

Angela, who spent 23 years in Coleraine raising her family before moving to Portaferry, said they always had "Jesus in their home".

She added: "I went along with the doctors - I knew I had to do that. I am thankful for their skills."

But she is also aware that people may be sceptical about her belief that she was cured by prayer.

"People may not like, it but I believe in God," she said. "There is a power beyond the doctors. Doctors are not God. I believe in the power of God and that He can control my life. That's what I believe.

"This has been my journey through cancer. Each person is different."

Last night Professor Jim Dornan, the chair of life and health sciences at Ulster University, told the Belfast Telegraph that trust, faith and hope were all important in coping with a life-threatening illness.

"Personally, having had leukaemia 10 years ago, hope is what you're looking for - hope from the energy of family and friends and your own personal desire and zest for life itself," he said.

"I can't say that prayer is a load of rubbish. Everybody knows that drugs work - but so do placebos.

"Compassion is as powerful a drug as any other.

"Morale, compassion, spirit - whether self-generated or given to you by other people - is a huge part of treatment. But hope is the key."

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