Terminally ill woman climbs 200 steps to get Pope Francis' attention
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Cheryl Tobin, who was once a master sergeant, airborne division, was told to "suck it up" and climb 200 stairs to reach the top of St. Peter's dome despite having a terminal stage 4 cancer.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Cheryl and her husband, Jim Tobin, told the Catholic News Service of their recent trip to Rome, where Cheryl wanted to participate in "the big wave" on a chair to get Pope Francis' attention.
Cheryl has been undergoing chemotherapy and has had sections from both thigh muscles removed, leaving her to remain in a wheelchair for most of the couple's visit to Rome - but it was not enough to keep her from climbing the corkscrew staircase to the top of St. Peter's dome.
She explained, "I was in the army - a master sergeant [airborne division and] you just suck it up, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps."
The couple took an elevator most of the way up, but to reach the top they had to climb the stairs. Steadying herself on the rails, Cheryl made her way up to the top.
Jim described other pilgrims complaining about the effort required to reach the top as the couple closed the distance.
"Then they saw her and got quiet," he explained.
Cheryl added, "we were like a group, pushing each other on [and cheering,] 'We're almost there.'"
After making it to the top, Cheryl admitted, "My legs were like rubber" but she made it.
Jim described how they "were in the back of the crowd," so he told his wife, "You need to stand up on the chair and suck it up."
He admitted "People were looking at me like, 'What a thing to say.' And then I told her, 'Don't just wave. You've got to do the big wave.' That's when [the guards] pointed to her." Cheryl was allowed to come from behind the barricades to meet Pope Francis.
"Everyone around us cheered. They only let her go up" Jim explained.
Cheryl wanted Pope Francis to see her as she was, so she refused to wear her wig. Instead, she donned a glittering gold headband.
When she reached him, they shared a warm embrace as Cheryl began to cry. "I started crying when I saw him. I was overwhelmed with emotion," she recalled.
Though she was initially fearful of the cancer diagnosis, Cheryl said her hug with the pontiff changed her. "I'm relieved," she described. "I feel like no matter what happens. I'll be OK. It's like not having any fear. It's closure in a way."
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