Living with Cancer, Living with Grace

By Carol Tobias, President, National Right to Life

Editor’s note. This note of appreciation to Maggie Karner was written last April by NRL President Carol Tobias. Mrs. Karner died last Friday. We have also included the Open Letter Dr. Karner wrote to Brittany Maynard, who, tragically, had become famous for becoming the public face of physician-assisted suicide.

Maggie Karner

Maggie Karner

A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Maggie Karner. She was the director of Life and Health Ministry for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. You only had to talk to her for a few minutes to realize what a blessing she is to this world. Maggie is compassionate, kind, and intelligent.

She is always cheerful, has a wonderful sense of humor, and an unflagging source of energy. I looked forward to working with her to make the world a better, more welcoming, place for unborn babies and the medically vulnerable, as well as just getting to know her even better as a person.

You can probably imagine how devastated I was last year to learn that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

The world got darker and I wondered, “Why, God? She is such a wonderful force for good in this world. Why Maggie?”

Watching Maggie deal with her cancer reminded me that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Maggie loves God and the changes in her life are being used for good.

Maggie has written eloquently about her cancer. Ironically, it is the same stage-four glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor that Brittany Maynard had. But their responses could not have been more different.

As the Connecticut legislature was considering a bill to legalize assisted suicide, Maggie wrote in the Hartford Courant, “Like many Connecticut residents, I have wondered whether I would want my doctor to offer suicide as a treatment for deadly cancer. The out-of-state proponents of the bill regarding physician-assisted suicide suggest having the ability to end your life legally is comforting. But I can tell you from personal experience that it is nearly as troubling as the cancer itself.

“You see, I get strength and comfort from the knowledge that nobody is going to give up on me — medically, psychologically or holistically. Right now, I have the firm support of the state and my fellow citizens in my desire to live — no matter the cost or burden. If that were to change, the tiny knowledge that I might be straining my family, friends, doctors or community resources unnecessarily would be a heavy burden. The constant “option” for suicide would wear at my resolve and I fear, become an unspoken “duty” for me and others.”

Maggie has just released a video, “Maggie’s Story,”  in which she shares her story, encouraging others to not give up, but to make a difference, regardless of their circumstances.

Maggie was an inspiration to me before she had the cancer. She is even more of an inspiration now.