On a Religious Patient

Dr. Bloch knew the woman would receive the bad news with fortitude. He knew her deeply religious belief would not even allow her to question what she felt was God’s will for her life. Sure enough, when Block told Klara about her bad prognosis, that the breast cancer was going to kill her sooner than later, Klara took the news with complete resignation and acceptance.

Six children and her husband had been Klara’s life. However, tragedy had already struck the family deeply. The husband had died some years earlier, and only two of the six children would live to see adulthood. Yet, through it all, Klara’s faith remained strong. She saw her suffering–the losing of the spouse, the loss of her other children to disease and then, finally, the cruel blow of the terminal cancer–as making her suffer like her beloved Jesus had suffered. During all her sickness, when she could, she never forsook attending the Catholic church in Linz, Austria, where she and the children had moved after her husband’s death.

They had moved to a small apartment where they could manage to survive on the small government pension the husband’s death had provided. Dr. Bloch assured the family that the cost for the cancer treatment would not be more than they could bear. This was a great relief to Klara and the family. Surgery was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Sadly, the surgeon found that the cancer had metastasized far beyond what his scalpel could reach. Klara’s oldest surviving son, only a teenager, begged the doctor to try something, anything, to save his beloved mother. So, Dr. Bloch suggested a new type of treatment as a last resort. This treatment, an early form of chemotherapy, called for direct contact of the chemicals with the infected tissue.

The pain caused by the therapy was almost unbearable. Yet, through it all, Klara’s unfailing faith kept her from grief. God’s will, she told her son, was the most important thing. This attitude of Klara’s would have an impact on him to the point that he eventually gave up on any faith at all. What kind of God would allow such a wonderful, loving mother to suffer as she did? Bloch noted the close, almost psychic bond the mother and son shared, and he watched as the son grieved so deeply as anyone he had ever witnessed when his mother finally succumbed to the cancer.

Dr. Eduard Bloch had a long career in Austria. Years later, and being Jewish, he watched with understandable concern as Adolf Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. He knew the Nazi pre-occupation with what Hitler called “the Jewish Problem” in the greater German Reich. And, so, he made plans to try to emigrate to the United States to escape the oncoming Holocaust. He sent a request to Berlin to be allowed to join his daughter who had gone to New York City some years earlier. Surprisingly, not only did Hitler allow Bloch to go, but he also ordered his private secretary, Martin Bormann, to take personal charge of the paperwork. Bloch went to New York and lived for the remainder of his life there. But he never forgot the deeply religious woman who faced her cancer fight so bravely. And he never forgot the son who grieved so deeply for his mother.

It was the same Adolf Hitler.


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