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Siobhán's Miracle

Eight years ago, Siobhán Kilfeather, who was suffering from a deadly cancer, went to Lourdes to pray to the Virgin Mary not for survival, but for more time to allow her young children to remember her.

When she returned to London, her doctors were amazed at her recovery:

Siobhán and Peter clung to each other as the radiologist continued. "Back in December we spotted a small lesion on the lungs. One month later the abnormality was the size of a walnut. By now we expected to be examining irregular cells the size of a grapefruit.

"Instead, there's nothing to be seen. The abnormalities have disappeared."

Siobhán's cancer returned seven years later, and this is her story as told by her mother-in-law Ellen Jameson in an upcoming book Siobhán's Miracle:

"I finally managed: 'How long do you think I've got?'He turned his face away from me and didn't answer. My head is so full of clutter I can't think straight.

"I should write to old friends I've lost touch with. Tell them I'm going to die. I can't seem to get things into proportion. The most important considerations are obviously my children and my husband, but also my work is important to me.

"My writing, my book, my students. Should I spend the last 12 hours of my life reading Jane Austen or writing an essay or singing nursery rhymes to my children?"

Link


Great Story!

Matt, way to throw dirt on a great happening. Spiritual or not, cancer just doesn't go away completely and then return years later. She was expected to die and the kids teeth have no bearing on this at all.
Please, I know I've had my moments, but shitheads like Matt need a ban spanking. PLEASE!!!
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no, it goes away completely and comes back pretty often. you could ask one of my bosses. He had a sizeable brain tumor back in the late 80's. After a lot of treatment, it disappeared, and he was given a clean bill of health. The tumor came back last year.
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umm...yeah good story...

and yes interesting "grill" on the girl... which was unfortunate because at the end I couldn't hardly remember the story just those teeth.
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I think the more interesting part of this story is how she handles the time she has left - she wished for the cancer to go away at least temporarily and it did. Now she has to make some really heartbreaking decisions for her and her family.
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"cancer just doesn’t go away completely and then return years later." Ummm yes it does. It happenes all the time Tim. It's called a RELAPSE. I know a little girl who's fighting lukemia right now. 6 months ago she was cancer free. Now her lukemia is back and she's being treated for it AGAIN.
Torrance had it right. God never cures amputees. When that happens, then I'll believe in "miracles" and deities.
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The mind is a pretty powerful thing. I don't see why it's more of a leap to think that her powerful belief cured her.

I'm not sure if she did her kids any favours, though. When they were little, they wouldn't have remembered her. Now, they'll remember their mother getting sick and wasting away until she died. Nice.
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Hypothetically-- what if God was to cure an amputee but that person lost their limb again years later?

What causes cancer (it's not smoking because people who don't smoke can get cancer)? Until we really know the answers to some of these mysteries we cannot really verify whether a miracle took place.. or what causes something to disappear... and reappear again.
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"What causes cancer (it’s not smoking because people who don’t smoke can get cancer)? Until we really know the answers to some of these mysteries we cannot really verify whether a miracle took place.. or what causes something to disappear… and reappear again."

Between this and the 'cancer doesn't just disappear and come back again years later' I can honestly see why people believe in magical thinking such as this. I can cope with people not knowing any better (science education and communication will always have its gaps), but the fact they seem to think they do is astounding.

Seriously, the things people say when they have no idea what they're talking about - and say it with full confidence - is embarrassing. All I can say in response to the comment is we do have a pretty good idea how cancer as a disease works, even if the biochemical details aren't as well defined as we'd like in a number of types.
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@Athon,

I never said anything about magic, and I never questioned *how* cancer works, I asked *what causes cancer*. You're inability to answer this shows your lack of education in the art of communication.

I am fully confident that I don't know what causes cancer, I am fully confident that science answers many questions and tells us absolutely how things work.

So do you have an answer to what *causes* cancer or continue to pontificate with absolutely no explanations whatsoever?

Honestly it's quite embarrasing having to point this out.

=)
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'Magical thinking' = the epistemology that supports supernatural causes, such as 'miracles'. I retract my claim if you were using the word miracle in a way different to the traditional religious understanding, as used by the article.

I can't see how you could separate the cause of cancer from how it works. We have a broad understanding of what causes all cancers, and in many cases a specific understanding of the biology behind it, including causation. Your pathetic example of smoking was truly mind-blowing in its ignorance - something does not need to causes cancer in every case to be considered a contributory risk factor. Do you also deny that eating fat can causes weight gain because many people eat burgers without piling on the pounds? Maybe you think immunisation doesn't work because some people still get sick after they've had a shot?

As to your question, I wonder what value an answer has to somebody who struggles with the basics. I'll give you a bit of a hand up though - do a search for 'oncogenes' and 'carcinogens', and come back once you've got a grasp. We might be able to have an intelligent conversation then.
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The power of the human mind is an extraordinary thing.

From sudden respite from cancers to believing that a man on a cloud fixed you.

I genuinely am amazed at cases of remission (not relapse BTW).

But then it's not waht gives you cancer, the question is how come cancer gets the upper hand.

We all have cancer, all the time.

Cells screwing up in the body and turning cancerous happens all the time, but our immune system kicks these cells to death and we don't ever notice.

Icidentally, I though her daughter looked very spiffy in her nice frock with a flower in her hair.

As for her teeth, well she is a little girl and should not be lambasted by thoughtless adults online.

Honestly, you people ought to know better.

She will no doubt get braces (a retainer to the US) and getthem under control, but thie thing is in the UK the ROI and EU we tend to think that our health care money should be spent on oncology not orthodontistry.

You USA types are weirdly osessed with having movie star teeth, but seem to not give a monkey's about letting your neighbours go bankrupt and die from caner.

Gimme Socialised medicine over Scooby Doo teeth" anyday.

Pol x

* Like Fred in Scooby Doo, one big wall of tooth on top and another on the bottom that look like bathroom fixtures.
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Blah, blah, blah, blah..
God doesn't perform miracles because people are generally icky...
Do we really need people living forever locked in these eternal p*ssing contests?
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Does this 'miracle' balance out the 26 elderly Polish pilgrims who died on their way back from Lourdes in a coach crash in 2007?

Given that the shrine gets about 5 million visitors a year, it's surprising how few miracles we hear about.

Perhaps most of them are just not praying hard enough. Come on, pilgrims, put some effort in.
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Holy cow! Those teeth are incredible!
Of course people are focusing on the one crappy picture of the kid - the rest of the article is such claptrap.

Sure, maybe it's inspirational and all that, but really - we live in an age of photographic retouching. That's the best picture they could come up with?

The article itself points out the fact that millions of people go to Lourdes every year - what made her special enough to be blessed with a miracle?

This is just another case of monkeys typing Shakespeare.
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@Athon,

All I've done is ask questions, you're responses have grown more and more spiteful and have yet contained barely any answers to my questions.

I measure intelligence by the level of civility employed in an argument.

By 'refuting' my *example* of smoking not causing cancer (to which I should have added "in every case" so as not to cause confusion for the simple-minded) are you actually implying that cancer, in every single case, is caused by either directly or passive smoking?

Are you also implying that in every case of a fat person, it's because they have eaten too much? So there's no case for genetics at all?

Your angry and superfluous arguments appear to me to be nothing more than setting up straw men out of my questions rather than attempting to answer them or pose questions back.
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@Alex Fear:

Although civility is nice, it has nothing to do with civility.

Anyway, for somebody who had earlier gone all ad hominem in accusing Athon of "lacking an education in the art of communication", you must admit that you rather compound the issue by either being unable, or simply refusing, to comprehend what he is saying. To wit: Athon clearly referred to smoking as a 'contributory risk factor', not the sole reason, nor even necessarily a reason at all, in any given case of cancer.

I think Athon is refusing to answer your questions because, and I don't wish to be unkind, but they're a little silly. But if it will help sort out your indignation, then I'm game. So let's see:

Q: "Hypothetically– what if God was to cure an amputee but that person lost their limb again years later?"
A: Then I guess we can draw two possible conclusions: either that person made God really angry, or they didn't learn their lesson about being careless around the industrial machinery the first time.

Q: "What causes cancer?"
A: IANAO (I Am Not An Oncologist), but I'm pretty sure people who *are* have a pretty good grasp on what's going on there, so I wouldn't worry about it. Oh, or, God does.

Oh dear! So, is it God, or is there something else at work here? Well, applying Occam's Razor and slicing away the bullshit, I think it should be fairly obvious that there's nothing miraculous going on here, viz. instead of an omnipotent, omnipresent spirit being both causing and taking away her cancer, it seems more likely that biological processes are responsible.

There we go, feathers unruffled now?
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'We don't know what causes cancer' is a very, very different statement to 'We don't know what causes cancer in many individual cases'. Diagnosing exact causes in individual situations from what we know what is responsible for cancer in a broader sense is not the same thing - of course there are a number of environmental effects which can trigger oncogenes into functioning as cancer genes, and in some individual cases this can be tricky to pin down. However, in the majority of cases the cause is fairly blatant.

I think you're confusing my frustration at poor understanding of science with hostility. Essentially you've suggested what is an argument from ignorance - a fallacy which says if we are less than certain in a mechanism explaining something, then an alternative explanation has more weight, especially if the alternative is a magical explanation over a mechanistic one. 'Miracles' are indeed magical thinking.

It also doesn't surprise me that you measure the intellectual weight of an argument not by its content, but by how civil you perceive it to be. While I've hardly pulled my punches, I've also not regressed into insults or ad hom attacks.

The bottom line is that while we can't state precisely why this lady's cancer regressed, we a) know it happens with significant frequency, and b) it has biological mechanisms to explain it. Even if it didn't it would still not require a 'God did it' explanation.
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OH MY F***ING GOD WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT WHETHER THE PRAYER DID IT OR NOT.

Are you people heartless? Can't you just put aside all this RELIGION IS BULLSH*T stuff and say that it was touching?
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I realize these comments were left a year ago, and this response likely won't be seen.

I wonder if those who commented here realize that the girl in this story is by now a teenager who has internet access, the ability to Google, and a profound curiosity about her MOTHER.

Think before you type.
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