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As she faced a health scare, Lara Patangan learned the beauty of receiving kindness and mercy from friends.

When I turned forty years old, I spent the year doing works of mercy. It was a game changer for me in a way that little else compares to. Yet sometimes I look back and think that perhaps I overcomplicated things. I worked incredibly hard to immerse myself into the needs of the community because I thought that’s what I needed to do to serve God. I thought I needed to step up and step out. While all along, I just needed to show up for the people God put in my path. Looking back, I realize mercy is about being present to all the needs that present themselves throughout the day.

Recently, I was on the receiving end of these mercies when a biopsy result came back as an invasive malignant melanoma. As a native Floridian, I am used to getting my moles checked every six months. My dermatologist always takes off at least two things every visit, and I go home and show my Band-Aids to my children and tell them to wear their sunscreen. (They show little interest in either the Band-Aids or the PSA). Anyway, the call that it could be something more significant than my normal abnormal took my breath.

And it was then that people stepped in until I could catch it.

I had a friend who offered to come over and sit with me as soon as she heard the crack in my voice. While I declined, I was grateful for her comforting words and assurances. There were offers to feed my family, which forced me to admit once again that I don’t feed them anyway, so any help with food was unnecessary. (My husband said I should have taken the meals!) There was the friend who kept things light, and I was so grateful for the diversion. There was the friend who let me be angry and scared and calm and brave all in the course of one conversation. There was the friend who insisted on going with me to the dermatologist’s office to pick up my medical records for a second opinion. I resisted because I figured I could easily do that myself, but I was so incredibly grateful to have her steady presence with me as a nurse took us into a room and explained the doctor’s concerns with the results and the need for a second opinion from another pathologist.




Then there was the friend who miraculously just happened to have a dermatologist appointment that day for her daughter and who insisted that I take it. As luck would have it, it was my former dermatologist and they agreed to let me take her appointment time and I was able to get a second opinion. The same friend was calling MD Anderson Cancer Center for me and trying to get me an appointment for surgery. Another friend was waiting for the word from me to secure an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. My husband did the dishes and the laundry and helped keep things tidy. It wasn’t necessary but it was oddly reassuring.


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I am still learning about the incredible gift of mercy and find that the people in my life are some of my greatest teachers. #catholicmom


All of the help I received in big and small ways was overwhelming. It is humbling to be on the receiving side of so much mercy. It was hard to accept, no matter how desperately I may have needed it. I didn’t want to be a bother. I wanted to stick my head in the sand and just wait it out. But, they would have none of that, and for that mercy I will be forever grateful. They forced me to get the second opinion, the medical records, the information that felt so overwhelming, and they held me up as I staggered along.

The second pathology report came back as a spitz nevus—not a melanoma, and the surgeon removed it. As I write this, my stitches were removed today and the latest biopsy results are still pending. Right now, I am in the waiting but I am trading any worry for a moment to rest in this pause. It is here that I feel such gratitude for the people in my life. It is here that I resist the temptation to scheme up ways to repay the kindness I have received and instead reflect on how service to others is an organic way of living our faith.

As always, God showed up for me throughout the experience. His love, comfort, and strength poured out through the people in my life who astounded me with their care and mercy. I am still learning about the incredible gift of mercy and find that the people in my life are some of my greatest teachers.

[Author's note: By the way, I am fine. I wrote this two years ago and sometimes it takes that long to be ready to share!]



Copyright 2022 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva