Home Diocesan News Survivor Linda Varso: ‘God still needs you’
Survivor Linda Varso: ‘God still needs you’ Print E-mail
Written by Debora Shaulis Flora, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 06 October 2017 14:09

AUSTINTOWN – Linda Varso keeps a daily prayer routine and a yearly mammogram appointment. “I hold my breath and pray with every annual exam,” she says with a smile.

Her faithfulness has not spared her from life’s challenges. She wasn’t prepared for the telephone call she received on New Year’s Eve 1997, after something suspicious was detected during an examination.

She had breast cancer.

As she hung up the phone, still in shock, one of her two sons asked what was wrong. Only 18 months earlier, her husband, James, had died of a ruptured appendix at age 53. They can’t lose me, too, she thought. Also, she understood that her family would react as she reacted to her diagnosis.

In that moment, she decided that cancer would not conquer her spirit. “I’ll be all right. Whatever will be, will be,” she said in reflection.

Varso’s cancer has been in remission for 19 years, a happy reality that she attributes to early detection, support from family and friends, nurturing her prayer life and maintaining a positive outlook.

“I believe the Lord will take care of me, one step at a time,” said Varso, 72, a retiree and member of Austintown Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

Varso is a longtime advocate of mammograms and breast self-exams, although she did not find the deep-tissue lump. “It was as small as a raisin,” she recalled. Mammograms, or low dose x-rays, enable trained technicians to look for changes in breast tissue, according to the American Cancer Society. Varso believes that lump was discovered early because of her regularity in having mammograms, she said.

Varso underwent a lumpectomy, in which only the cancerous area of the breast is removed, and had some lymph nodes taken as well. Radiation treatments followed – a 26-day course. She had been employed as a cafeteria worker at Youngstown East High School. She would finish her shifts, then drive to Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital for six minutes of radiation, during which she prayed the “Hail Mary,” the “Our Father” and the “Glory Be,” she said.

She did take a break from radiation to travel with her brother and sister-in-law to Hawaii, an Easter season vacation that had been planned long before she was diagnosed. It was “so moving” to see mountains, a volcano and many sunrises, she said. She resumed radiation on her way home from the airport, she added.

Prayer has been a constant in Varso’s life. She had been raised in the Methodist Church but married James, a Catholic, in St. Columba Cathedral, Youngstown. She completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in 1976 at the former Campbell St. Elizabeth Parish with the late Msgr. Cyril Adamko. After she relocated to Austintown, she joined Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish while Father Steve Popovich was pastor. She is a member of the parish RCIA team and was a sponsor to both of her daughters-in-law as they entered the Catholic Church.

Through her parish affiliations, Varso has met many good people. “They inspire you,” she said. She also found inspiration among members of her extended family who maintained strong prayer lives and compassion for others despite their serious health problems, she added.

“Being involved with your church community is a great thing,” Varso said. She speaks proudly of her family – which includes sons Timothy and Shawn and two granddaughters and one grandson, all from Austintown – and their participation in parish life.

Varso said she still turns to one friend and former co-worker at East High for prayer support because the woman is part of a large prayer chain. “I think you surround yourself with people who are spiritual,” she said, adding that she has “friends from different religions” who also uplift her.

For Varso, the answer to staying positive is rooted in people. On the day she was interviewed for an Exponent article, she had attended the morning all-school Mass at Youngstown St. Christine Parish, where her granddaughter and other eighth-grade students were recognized; enjoyed a weekly lunch with longtime friends in Cornersburg; and was looking forward to her older granddaughter’s next performance with the Austintown Fitch High School marching band at Youngstown State University. “I live for my family,” she said.

Varso added that negativity “will really pull you down, and then you can’t get out of the hole. We all have our down days. As long as you pick yourself up … The Lord still needs you.”


Church Budget Envelope & Mailing Co.

Please update your Flash Player to view content.
You need to install Adobe Flash Player to view ads.
Please update your Flash Player to view content.