Seeking Christ's heart

Serious illness focuses the mind on family — and faith

Deacon Dana Nearmyer is the lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth.

by Deacon Dana Nearmyer

Non-Hogkins lymphoma are tough words to hear coming out of your doctor’s mouth.

Cancer and other serious illnesses cause priorities to be refined. Your definition of what is a “good day” changes. Conversations with loved ones seem sweeter. Your expectations of others soften; you start to listen more deeply.

One doctor told me that, in 30 years of practice, every one of his patients said they wished that they had never had cancer, but they all wished everyone could see how beautiful life is when you are keenly aware of your mortality.

This summer, I lived at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg and directed Camp Tekakwitha with my wife and our amazing staff. I would go for chemotherapy treatments at KU and come back to camp to be surrounded by laughing children and their amazing voices passionately singing to Jesus.

Our times of Mass and eucharistic adoration really touched us all. I was so inspired and encouraged in my faith by the campers and their families. I was able to successfully finish my chemotherapy with all of that great faith and encouragement surrounding me.

My wife was especially attentive to my care. Marriage isn’t easy. We have certainly had our rough patches, like everyone, but I am forever grateful for her faithfulness and support.

I encourage all married couples to really pour effort and attention into your relationship. Build your love for Jesus alongside your love for each other. Jesus will be a bridge between you, even when you are ready to give up.

Go on dates, check out the School of Love date nights and family resources, go on a “Living in Love” retreat with the archdiocesan family life office or at least check out their Joyful Marriage Project resources. Investing time, prayer and energy into your spouse will be blessed by God.

Jesus is faithful and he wants the best for us, here and eternally. Get to know him. Check the Fire Retreat for men, the Tekakwitha women’s retreat or family camp at Prairie Star.

Look into retreats held at Savior Pastoral Center or at Christ’s Peace House of Prayer. Find a great Catholic, Christ-focused retreat. Jesus seeks you every day; he longs for you to intentionally seek him.

Psalm 23 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me”(4).

I have felt Christ with me in every chemotherapy and radiation treatment and many a sleepless night. Jesus comforts and accompanies us through the snares that Satan leaves for us. Ever since the fall, God has called us to his refuge.

He is calling you to really get to know him.

About the author

Deacon Dana Nearmyer

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  • Deacon Dana
    Awesome words and shared perspective. It is amazing how life challenges enable us to focus our priorities. God, family, friends and in this case – some pretty good doctors who get their help from above – can truly alter or at least refocus us to understand what is really important. Fortunate are the ones who understand this without a “life event”. Hopefully your sharing will help us all take a closer look!

    Thank you…

  • Such a beautiful message Mr Nearmyer! I have been praying for you and your family and I know what God can and will do! I’ve witnessed a miracle! We serve an all knowing loving God. One that has not given us a spirit of fear. In anything we may set out to do in this life! No matter how hard the road gets for me I will never give up on the love and promise of the Father!! Ashley and I love you! Had it not been for your willingness to care about our future as young folks we may not of made it thru high school please know I’m always lifting you up in prayer!! Stay strong and God bless you always!!!

  • Thank you, Deacon, for sharing such a powerful testimony of faith and love. May you have abundant blessings throughout your journey.