Believing in Miracles Helps Me Overcome Despair

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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“Do you believe in miracles?”

Sports announcer Al Michaels uttered that sentence on national television in February 1980 during an Olympic hockey game between the United States and the Soviet Union.

During the game, which was later dubbed the “Miracle on Ice,” the Americans were heavy underdogs. But that day, a team of predominantly college-aged players beat the heavily favored, more experienced Russian team 4-3, which led to Michaels’ exuberant question.

After posing it, he empathically answered the same way I do: “Yes!”

I have faith, so I believe, as stated in the Bible, that “nothing will be impossible with God.” Thus, I expect miracles to occur. I pray for one in the lives of my wife and daughter, who both have Huntington’s disease (HD). I pray  they will be healed or a drug will be invented that will provide a cure. This mindset is natural for those who want a loved one to become healthy again.

However, I’m also pragmatic, which is why I was not surprised by recent news that an experimental therapy that had shown great promise for the HD community failed in a late-stage clinical trial. This led the pharmaceutical company, Roche, to stop giving study participants doses of the investigational antisense therapy tominersen.

The logical part of me realizes the following:

  • Huntington’s, like many rare diseases, is a complicated puzzle that has proven extremely difficult for scientists and drug companies to solve.
  • The discovery of a cure or therapy that can halt the disease’s progression may take a monumental effort and big bucks similar to Operation Warp Speed, the juggernaut program that fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine development. However, the chances of this happening seem low.
  • The reality is that a cure may not occur in my family’s lifetime.

That thought is devastating. I do not want to see my wife and daughter suffer. I want them — and others who deal with HD — to live long and productive lives. My faith, however, leads me not to despair, feel anxious, or dwell on what may not occur. My faith leads me to believe in miracles.

The obvious one is a cure. But I don’t dwell on that, because I would rather focus on the miracles I experience.

A short list of those miracles includes: my wife’s and daughter’s superior intelligence, my wife’s smile and marvelous sense of humor, their presence in my life, their big hearts, their acceptance of their illness, and their ability to love life and live in the moment.

I could go on and on, but the point is that miracles occur every day in our lives. They may not be grandiose, but they are incredible. They are the little things that bring joy, love, peace, and happiness. I used to take them for granted; I don’t anymore.

Even when their suffering increases, I expect there will be more miracles. I envision neighbors and family members stepping up. I picture every moment spent with them to be precious. I see them continuing to teach me how to live.

Because life can be so short and difficult, I have been diligently trying to understand and see where the miracles are in my life. These miracles represent hope to me. When I hear disappointing news, such as Roche’s recent announcement, I do not despair. Instead, I put my hope in the many daily miracles that flow into my life.

As French author Georges Bernanos once put it: “The highest form of hope is despair overcome.”

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Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.

Comments

Elena Navarro avatar

Elena Navarro

I have learnt that God speaks to us in the most incredible ways. Today I heard his voice and message through this article. Thank you so much Carlos Briceño for giving the words hope and miracle a new meanining, a new perspective. I like to think that beyond the limits of our bodies, there is a connection between us and our surroundings. We are linked in a unity, beyond time and space, in which each individual learning is an evolutionary advantage for all of us. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts Carlos. A big hug from Argentina.

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Your kind words were amazingly beautiful and deep. Thank you for sharing all that, Elena. I appreciate what you wrote, especially on your description of the unity and community that exists between people, with no limits because of space and time. This is part of the greatness of humans: that our imaginations make us understand that which we can't see, but we know is true. Sending you a hug in return from the U.S.

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ErLinda Torres avatar

ErLinda Torres

Carlos Briceno,
Felicidades y Gracias you're anointed w the Grace of God..feeling Inspired by you. I too believe in Miracles, will continue to pray for effective HD treatment for my Familia💜

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you for your kind message. I will be praying for your family too.

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Elizabeth Thompson avatar

Elizabeth Thompson

My husband died of HD about 17 years ago. Unfortunately my daughter who is 46 also has this devastating illness. She is married with no children but I do almost 50% of her caring. I am 78 years old and now realise that we should not have had children. I find caring tremendously difficult and we have to be so careful as her moods can erupt very quickly and without warning. She can be very aggressive and unreasonable. However, the sadness of watching her deteriorate is almost
Unbearable. I pray for medication that can help her to be happy as she frequently wants to put an end to her life. Is there any hope for the future?

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I am saddened to hear about the impact that HD has had on your family. You have my condolences on the death of your husband. And I'm so sorry to hear that your daughter has been so adversely affected by HD and that you are witnessing it and dealing with it. You asked: is there any hope for the future? My hope is in God. He has already given me strength to help me as a caregiver. If you have faith, I hope that you can rely on it to give you strength. You and your family will be in my prayers. If you don't have faith, or you have doubts or don't trust God, please know that the best hope you can rely on is your heart -- the heart of a mother. I know you're feeling tired. But a mother's heart is formidable. Remember, love is the mightiest weapon we have.

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Sinbum Kang avatar

Sinbum Kang

Recently founding out that my 52-year-old wife has this devastating disease, and that my two daughters also have 50% chances of having the mutant gens, I couldn't keep up my lifelong faith in God. How can I watch my beloved ones die from dementia? Why do I have to suffer like this? Are there God's providences. Yet , I haven't completely lost my faith, but I keep getting skeptical. If time goes by, may I be able to see the hopes in everyday life like you? How can I hide my fears and become a strong father in front of my wife and daughters?

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Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

As the husband of a wife who has HD and as the father of a young adult daughter who has it, please know that I feel your pain in immensely close ways and my sorrow over how you -- and they -- must feel is a profound and sincere one. Thank you for sharing all that you did. In what you shared, you asked some very deep questions. They strike at the heart and core of questions that I have asked. Just to give you some background, my eldest sister died of cancer at age 45 in 2005. My other sister also got cancer, but beat it -- only to die in 2019 when a 150-foot oak tree from a neighbor's yard fell on the car she was sitting in with her son in her own driveway where she lived. It severed her spinal cord and caused traumatic brain injuries. She died later that night. Her son, sitting in the driver's seat of the car -- my sister was in the passenger seat -- was unhurt. There was a terrible storm that night, the wind and rain were fierce. They had gone to an event and when they came home my sister decided to wait in the car, listening to music and talking to her son, my nephew, to see if the rain and wind might calm down a little before they ran from their car to their front door.

In 2018, my wife was diagnosed with HD. In 2019, my only daughter, who was about to graduate from college, was diagnosed with HD. In early 2021, my elderly mom was placed in hospice, where she still clings to life. I share all this to say that I have encountered profound sadness and grief in my life. I have no doubt you have, as well. I am pretty everyone who is reading this has encountered some kind of grief and/or deep sadness too.

So, how do we deal? I can only give you my experiences, because I am most familiar with my thoughts. Please note that I share this with you as a witness, which means it is coming straight from my heart.

One person whom I met after my sister died shared a great phrase. I was at my sister's work, where her husband and his son, my nephew who lived while the tree struck the car he was in, were cleaning out my sister's work space, gathering her thing and putting them in boxes. One of my sister's co-workers stopped by to express her grief at the loss of my sister. She wondered how I was doing. I hesitated before telling her the following because I didn't know if she would react badly to what I was about to say. I said that my faith in God was helping me through all this. As you know, in public, especially at secular work places, faith is not something that people talk about frequently, which I understand.

But she asked me a question, and I was honest in my reply: if not for my faith, I would be incredibly depressed and anxious. I am neither of those things, and I owe it all to my faith. She told me she was someone who had faith too and then she shared some of the stuff she was going through in her life, all of which was very difficult. And then she said something that I will never forget: she said that life can make us bitter or better. She said she chose to be better, and her faith played a part of that. What she meant was that believing in God, believing in mercy and forgiveness and love and giving thanks for the little things in life, helped her to be a better person.

I agreed with her. In my life, I can be someone selfish, with a huge ego. As a Catholic and as a Christian, I believe in Jesus, and my faith shows me He is someone I should emulate. He was someone who as a servant. He was someone who loved. He was someone who suffered. He knew loneliness. He knew sadness. And, yet, my faith tells me He persisted in loving others. In serving others. In showing mercy. In helping others. He also knew that this world is a fallen one. He knew that this was not heaven, which meant He knew He was going to die a terrible death, hanging on a cross after being tortured. But He also trusted in God's promises that there is more to life than a horrible death -- that heaven is for those who strove to show mercy on earth, who strove to show love, who strove to forgive, who endured suffering because suffering means we need help and, to me, that help comes in the form of faith.

How does my faith help me? It opens me up to His help. Because He embodied love, He shows me the way to act. He shows me that I need to serve my wife and daughter with my whole heart and be better as a man and as a human being because my wife and daughter deserve that, especially as they embark on the path of suffering that they will be going on. As a caregiver, I need to be patient and kind and thoughtful and loving and unselfish, and Jesus' life and teachings show me how and inspire me to try to be all those things. Because He knew suffering, I know He knows what I'm going through. I know He is walking by my side and my wife and daughter’s sides because He understands. He’s been there. That helps me and gives me strength. I try to let His love enter my heart and the more it does the less afraid I feel. The more energized I feel. Honestly, I have never felt more joy and peace and love than I do now because my faith has increased through all these recent terrible news in my family because I know I need help. And that help comes in the form of my faith. I tap into it in order to choose to be better, not bitter.

St. Augustine puts it this way: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”

So, rather than focusing on my sadness, I choose to believe. And in believing, I try to emulate Christ. I focus on serving. I choose to focus on loving my wife and daughter well. I choose to focus on being merciful. I choose to focus on being forgiving. All those are basic Christian tenants, and they help fill me with joy because, when one gives -- in other words, when one shows love -- one feels joy. Showing love is an act of gratitude. It is an act of hope toward the other person. I am pointing my will in that direction -- using faith as my North Star -- and, thus, though I realize that my wife and daughter will suffer greatly, I know that my love will be just as great. And that fills me with hope. I know that they won't be alone. I know that they will not feel great but they know that I will help them and love them as much as I can and that gives them hope.

There are so many blessings in my life -- and some of them are little ones -- but I am so grateful for them because my faith helps me to see them.

One of the questions that I am always asked is: where is God in all this? Why doesn't He stop suffering? My answers are simple. He allows suffering because this is not heaven. If we want perfection on earth, we will never find it. Because I accept that we do not live in a perfect world, then I understand why He doesn't just stop all suffering on earth. But, I also know that God can work through me to help alleviate suffering. In other words, I can try to be there for my wife and daughter and do the best I can to help alleviate their suffering as much as I can.

Simultaneously, I also realize that the answer to where God is is also simple: Not only can He work through me to help others, He is right beside me. He knows what suffering is because He suffered on the Cross. So, what I have done, in an act of my will and with free choice, I have chosen to decrease -- meaning, my ego, my selfishness, my pride -- and chosen to believe in God, and, in doing so, He has increased in me. As a result, I am more loving, more patient, more kind, more giving, more generous. That is Him increasing in me because I want that. That is the best way I can help my wife and daughter. Being sad won't help them. Being mad won't help them. Being bitter won't help them.

I choose to be more like Jesus because my faith tells me that this is the best, most healthiest and loving ways to be. And I have found that to be true.

In conclusion, God gave us all free will. You can choose to believe or not. I have found that, in believing, I have found the strength I need in order to help not only myself cope with the sadness and tragedies in life, but also to be the positive and strong fountain of hope and love that my wife and daughter need.

So, it is your choice. I realize what you are feeling is difficult to understand and I understand why you are skeptical. If you have any more questions, I am happy to help with answers and/or be a friend to walk by your side as you try to gain strength. I am always happy to communicate with you via email or Zoom in order to help you or listen to you. In all that I have shared, I have been very deliberate to be a witness of my faith. Please know that I can't tell you how to be or what to believe in. All I can do is share what I have understood and felt, and I have done that to the best of my ability here.

We have to help each other. We are all in the same boat, rowing to the same shore. We have to help each other get to that shore.

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