By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "Whether the church says it or was or not, I believe it was a miracle."
That "M" word: miracle. During the nine years she's been cancer free, Rachel Lozano has used that word a lot, explaining over and over again why she's still among the living.
"Sometimes it's a little overwhelming at times," said Lozano. "I think of this time as my extra years on earth."
Most of Rachel's high school years at St. Joseph's Academy were spent fighting a rare and sometimes fatal form of cancer, Askin's tumor. She had multiple surgeries and underwent a bone marrow transplant. Chemotherapy claimed her hair, but she whimsically turned her bald head into a canvas for colorful artwork. In her high school graduation photo, she was smiling brightly, even though she was fighting for her life.
"It was strange. I actually had a peacefulness when I would think and pray about it," said Lozano. "I didn't know what that peacefulness meant. I didn't know if that meant dying or that meant living."
When the cancer appeared for the third time, the doctors delivered the worst news possible.
"That I pretty much had a few weeks to live at the most, depending on which organ was hit first, because the tumor recurred between my heart, lung, and spine."
During one last surgery to remove cancer, Rachel Lozano's doctors were shocked to find no cancerous tissue. The cancer was gone.
"They (doctors) actually had to formally testify that they could not explain why I'm alive," said Lozano.
A 2000 photograph shows Lozano at the gravesite of Father William Chaminade, founder of the Marianists in 1817. She had flown to Rome to attend a ceremony honoring Father Chaminade. Feeling a strong connection to the priest, Lozano prayed to Chaminade to cure her cancer.
"He also overcame a lot of obstacles in his life and never gave up hope," said Lozano. "I see the parallels in our lives that way."
Eventually Rachel Lozano's recovery was declared to be a miracle by the St. Louis Archdiocese and the investigation was passed along to the Vatican. If the Vatican certifies that Lozano's case is a miracle, it would be the second miracle attributed to Father Chaminade, and the Pope could declare Chaminade a saint. She doesn't know if or when that will happen.
"Knowing that my name can be in the permanent history of the church, that I helped someone become a saint, it's kind of crazy."
Rachel's Twitter handle is obsessedwithlife and she has reason to be. She's about to complete her graduate studies in art theraphy and she's happily married to Gabe Lozano, founder of the successful internet company Lockerdome. They met at a Cardinals game. When he met Rachel, Gabe thought he'd struck out.
"She asked me about what do I do?" said Gabe Lozano. "I said I don't have a job. I don't have a car. I still live with my parents. I don't have any money. If I'm lucky I get to drive my mother's minivan. At the end of the night, for some unknown reason, Rachel hands me her business card."
More proof that some things that happen can't be explained.
"I definitely feel blessed and feel like there is some sort of purpose to it," said Rachel Lozano, "and I try to be open to the opportunities that come up."