Roberts Liardon tells us that on a cold winter morning in 1925 in a schoolyard in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a group of rosy-cheeked children laughed gleefully as they chased each other around the tall oak tree. Little girls giggled on the swing set as they swung higher and higher.
Suddenly, one little girl fell to the ground, crying as she clutched at her chest. Apparently, she had injured herself, but even as she wiped her tears, the adults who were supervising were not concerned. Nine-year-old Raffaela Serio continued to have pain near the “invisible” injury on her chest. Her parents were concerned, so they took her to see one doctor and then another. It appeared she had just bruised the area near her left breast, but as the pain increased, a small lump formed and then grew to the size of an orange.
Raffaela’s parents called on a friend who was a pediatric specialist trained at Johns Hopkins University. After administering several difficult tests, the doctor gravely pronounced the diagnosis. Little Raffaela Serio had sarcoma cancer of the left breast.
The grieving parents watched as their precious daughter lost weight rapidly. The specialist determined that the cancer was rooted too deeply for surgery and said he could do little for the pain. There was also an open, seeping sore, but since not much was known about cancer at the time, the doctor prescribed a special brown salve to be applied on the affected area each day, which would then be wrapped with clean bandages. Although they tried to be hopeful, Raffaela’s doctors saw slim chance for a recovery.