Liam Burke

In late 2008 Liam Burke began suffering from severe migraines and, after six weeks of persistent pain, visited his doctor who sent him for an MRI on February 9th 2009.   Hours later, the Limerick man was transported by ambulance to Cork University Hospital – the scan had revealed a suspect tumour on his brain.

Although doctors believed that the tumour was 99% likely to be benign, four days later the photo-journalist was told he had fallen into the unfortunate 1% bracket and was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma of the central nervous system.

“After undergoing an operation to remove the tumour in February 2009, I was given the devastating news that the cancer was malignant” he recalls. He was given months to live.

“I sank into a severe depression which I know really affected everyone around me. So after a few days, I decided to pull myself together and reasoned that only God could decide how long I had to live”.

With this new-found positive attitude, Liam began to focus on using his faith to help him cope with this serious illness.

“I have never been a huge mass-goer but I have always had great faith,” he says. “So I turned my back on despair and concentrated on praying for a more optimistic future”.

With this new-found positive attitude Liam began to focus on using his faith to help him cope with this serious illness.

“I began a 19 week programme of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in a bid to eradicate the disease called the DeAngeles Protocol”.

Weekly sessions alternated between chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and radiotherapy. Although gruelling, Liam persevered in the hope that a cure would be found. But more bad news lay ahead. “After eight weeks of treatment, more lymphoma was found in my spinal fluid and my oncologist said it would be advisable to stop all treatment and suggested palliative care for the time I had left. It was a terrible time for me, my partner Pauline and my children Sam (21) and Liz (18).

But the 54 year old has defied medical logic by apparently conquering the disease and almost two years after his initial diagnosis is looking forward to the future.

Prior to starting treatment he was given a book about Joao de Deus. “I had seen a documentary a few years ago about Joao, who is commonly referred to as ‘John of God’, says Liam. “But I forgot about him until the moment the book was put into my hands. As soon as I saw it I knew that I had to go and see him – I didn’t know what I would achieve, but it was vital that I got to Brazil.”

Using a combination of savings and financial help from family, Liam and Pauline made a two-week trip to Abadiania in July 2009 during a break from his chemotherapy. “I had no expectation of being cured, but I was convinced that this would be a life changing experience and I prayed that I would be worthy of being allowed some more time with my family.”

When Liam arrived at the Casa he found hundreds of other pilgrims hoping to change their fate. “There were loads of people waiting to see Joao and when I reached the top of the queue, he could see I was ill and told his interpreter to tell me to come back later and to join the queue for healing. So I queued up from 2pm until 4pm and after a couple of seconds in front of him he wrote a prescription for passion flower herbs on a piece of paper and told me to go and rest for 24 hours. But I was taking eight steroids a day and was getting by on two hours sleep, I didn’t imagine I would get much rest – but as soon as my head touched the pillow I fell into a deep sleep for 22 hours.”

During the rest of his stay he spent the time resting and reading with Pauline as his companion.Liam decided to show some photos of sick relatives and friends which he had brought with him.  “I queued up to see Medium Joao again and out of respect I knelt down on one knee, however due to the weakness in my legs I couldn’t get up again and this was when Medium Joao put out his hand and helped me to my feet saying, ‘I am taking care of you, you will get better’.  At this point I burst into tears and felt that a miracle had just happened.  I heard the words in English, a language medium Joao does not speak.”

On returning to Ireland, new samples of spinal fluids were taken and Liam was found to be lymphoma free. He recommenced treatment which he finished treatment in September 2009 and three days later felt so well that he flew to Sudan to do some volunteer work for Concern. “I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling, although I had lost a lot of weight and muscle over the year I was now 100% healthy and ready to go back to my normal life.”

His friends and family whose photo he showed also experienced a big improvement in their health.

Considering his doctors had given Liam months to live on two occasions and prescribed palliative care in May 2009 for ‘the time he had left’,  were they also convinced by this apparently miraculous cure? “My oncologist has a policy of being totally honest, whether you are capable of dealing with it or not,” says Liam. “He believes I am in remission and he once said to Pauline that I was in denial of the severity of my illness. But I don’t mind if people are critical of my faith, I did what was right for me and I am now relishing my life and enjoying every day I have – whether its six months, six years or 20 years – at the end of the day, God is the one who will decide.”

In January 2011 Liam featured on the series “Would You Believe” on Irish TV network RTÉ.