Thanks to an army of prayer warriors, holy water and a tenacious will to get better, Polly Kenzie knows the Lord saved her life. And her faith.

Watch a video interview with Polly Kenzie

DETROIT — If you ask Polly Kenzie to tell you her story, she wants you to know, first and foremost, that it’s full of what she calls “God winks.”

While eating dinner one night in April 2018, something in her food cut the inside of her throat, sending her to the emergency room. Kenzie couldn’t stop bleeding and was confused when the medical team decided to do an MRI. 

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Within 40 minutes, the doctor came back to inform Kenzie that she had stage 4 kidney cancer. Kenzie had not presented with any symptoms despite the fact that a tumor had completely grown around her kidney. 

Through the terror and devastation, Kenzie says this is where the first “God wink” appeared: the bleeding stopped, and it never came back. It had nothing to do with the cancer, but had it not happened, Kenzie would never have been diagnosed. 

As Kenzie defiantly fought the cancer, countless people prayed for her recovery. Perhaps the most active prayer warrior was Kenzie’s mother, who urged everyone, even those she didn’t know, to pray for her daughter.

As she lay in the hospital, reeling from the news, a doctor walked by her room, and seeing her crying, stopped to comfort her. 

“He sat down and he held my hand and he talked to me for 45 minutes, which is so unusual,” Kenzie said. “He just chatted with me and tried to calm me down. I felt as if God was with him and me.”

The next day, a second “God wink” came her way. Kenzie’s brother called from Ohio and recommended a world-renowned surgeon who had recently treated a friend with kidney cancer. He happened to be from Detroit, but that wasn’t the most providential part. 

He also happened to be the same doctor who had sat with Kenzie and comforted her as she cried the day before. 

Determined to fight the cancer, Kenzie met with a kidney cancer specialist who bluntly told her that with no cure for the disease and because of her advanced age, she would die within five years.

“I didn’t like that,” Kenzie said. “I told her, ‘No, you’re wrong. I am not going to die from this. I will die from something else, but it would not be from this.’”

Angry, Kenzie fired the specialist and sought another doctor. Kenzie explained the situation to the new doctor, expressing her frustration with the dire prognosis that had been given to her. 

“She was very diplomatic and she explained that there is no cure, but it doesn’t mean I am going to die in five years,” Kenzie said. “‘Good,’ I told her, ‘because I am telling you right now I am not going to die; I am going to beat this cancer.’ And she didn’t pooh-pooh me. She didn’t say no, but she just nodded and we went on.”

As she went through her cancer treatments, Kenzie said she began to pray to God differently. She would “just talk to Him” rather than rely on rote prayers, which ultimately helped to strengthen her relationship with the Lord.

In December, a cancer spot was found in her lungs, and Kenzie had surgery to remove a part of her lung. 

As Kenzie defiantly fought the cancer, countless people prayed for her recovery. Perhaps the most active prayer warrior was Kenzie’s mother, who urged everyone, even those she didn’t know, to pray for her daughter. 

“My mother is the feistiest little Italian woman you would ever want to meet,” said Kenzie, who attends St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park. “She is very active in her church and in the adoration society, with St. Vincent de Paul — all the things you can do, she does. She is a Mary Kay (cosmetics) consultant even at 90. Every time someone would place a makeup order, she would say, ‘Please pray for my daughter. She has cancer and needs your prayers.’ She would write cards. She would go to adoration and then she would ask the next person that was coming in to pray for me. 

“God wants us not only to believe in Him, but He wants us to believe Him,” Kenzie said. “To believe that everything He said is true and everything He did is true — I have that belief now. I am grateful and thankful and I know that God loves me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you this story.”

“She is my biggest fan and she just asked everybody that she met to pray for me,” Kenzie said. “It was inspiring, and I started doing that, too. (My mom) is in my corner and my sisters and brothers always say she has a direct line to God.”

On top of her mother’s prayers, Kenzie’s friends and family submitted her name to prayer groups all around the United States. Kenzie had people from every religion and every denomination storming heaven for her healing. 

Kenzie was gifted holy oil, holy water and Bibles, and her relationship with God and her prayer life began to change. 

“I started praying a different way; instead of just praying the prayers in a hymnal, I started just talking to God,” Kenzie said. “I do believe He wanted a deeper relationship with me, and I have that now. I was going through the motions before: I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school for 12 years, and then life got busy. I just didn’t stay with the faith as faithfully as I could have. I never stopped believing in God, I just think that all of this has brought me to a different way to be closer to God.”

Then, in the summer of 2019, Kenzie suffered a stroke. The doctors immediately feared that the cancer had spread to her brain and recommended brain surgery. 

“(The doctor) said, ‘You are a miracle,’” Kenzie said. “And I said, ‘No. I got a miracle.’ I just think it was God. I think God just decided to heal me.”

Kenzie, ever the fighter, refused. 

“I said, ‘Do you see any cancer?’ And they said, ‘Well, no, we can’t because there is so much of a shadow of blood.’ I told them, ‘You are not cutting my head open until you are sure there is cancer.’ So they made me come back every five weeks to have my brain scanned, and they just kept saying, ‘We think it’s cancer. We need to do surgery.’ I said, ‘I do not have brain cancer; I refuse to have brain cancer. My God is not that cruel. I’ve got this.’”

Soon after, Kenzie’s friend, Cheryl Robb-Genevich, brought her holy water acquired by the Knights of Malta during their annual healing pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. 

Earlier in the year, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Robb-Genevich had attended a healing Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit as a proxy for Kenzie, where she had received the vials.

“She blessed me with the water,” Kenzie said. “And I thought, if it is going to bless me by being on my skin, I am just going to drink it. So I drank it, and she just stared at me and she asked, ‘What did you just do?’ I said, ‘I just drank it — if it is inside me, it will kill all those cancer cells.’ And she laughed and we prayed some more.”

When Kenzie went to her next cancer screening, the doctors couldn’t find any cancer. As of May 2020, she was officially declared cancer-free, to the puzzlement of her doctors and specialists. 

Kenzie believes God allowed her to go through her ordeal in order to give others struggling with illness encouragement and hope. She isn’t sure how she’ll use the gift she's been given, but is determined to use it for God’s greater glory.

“(The doctor) said, ‘You are a miracle.’ And I said, ‘No. I got a miracle,’” Kenzie said. “Is it from the Lourdes water? Is it from the group of prayers? I just think it was God. I think God just decided to heal me.”

Kenzie said her healing was a conglomeration of different things as heaven was flooded with prayers for her healing. 

The night before she spoke with Detroit Catholic, Kenzie posted on Facebook and asked who had prayed for her when she was sick. When she woke up the next morning, she had hundreds of responses from fellow Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and non-denominational Christians. The responses came from all across the country, with promises of continuing prayer. 

Kenzie wants her story to continue to reach more people because she is certain she went through hell for God’s greater glory and purpose. 

“I am hoping that maybe someone with cancer can get some hope or some faith,” Kenzie said. “There are people without God that would say I am doomed, and I am going to die. But I had God, and I knew He was going to help me. I am still hoping for clarity that I figure out what to do with this gift that has been given to me. I have my life back, and I am going to have a future with my grandkids. It is just phenomenal. To me, it is a miracle. It’s not me, it is God and the Holy Spirit; I am just here.”

Ultimately, she hopes anyone who is struggling can find solace in prayer, because, she said, God heard all of the prayers for her and answered them.

“God wants us not only to believe in Him, but He wants us to believe Him,” Kenzie said. “To believe that everything He said is true and everything He did is true — I have that belief now. I am grateful and thankful and I know that God loves me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you this story.”

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