Former Miss Ireland claims her cancer was cured 'through the power of prayer'
A former Miss Ireland has spoken of her belief that she was cured of cancer through the power of prayer.
A story in the Belfast Telegraph about the recovery of schoolboy Josh Martin prompted model Rachelle Liggett to reveal her own past experience and how she had escaped the clutches of the disease to lead a normal life.
Rachelle is now 25, but when only 10 she was diagnosed with a severe strain of leukaemia.
She said: "On February 7, 2001, at 10 years old, I was diagnosed with an acute form of leukaemia, cancer of the blood.
"Mine was an acute form, meaning the condition progressed rapidly and aggressively.
"Leukaemia just seemed like the worst type of cancer because the cancer was in my blood, which flowed to every cell of my body."
Although Rachelle has great admiration for the doctors at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, she firmly believes all the care and treatment they gave her was not enough on its own to rid her of cancer.
She believes it was "through the power of prayer and God's will that I am here today".
Rachelle recovered from the disease to gain a teaching degree.
She also won the Miss Ireland competition in 2011.
But when first diagnosed the prognosis was devastating.
I had excruciating pain in my lower back at that age of 10, which doctors had diagnosed as a virus a month before and sent me home with," she explained.
"It was only on February 7 when I went to go to bed after Brownies that the back pain came back suddenly with even greater intensity.
"I remember crying out in severe pain until the out-of-hours doctor sent us to A&E, where finally the doctors - who don't usually give children morphine - had no other choice but to inject me with it at five in the morning, which put me straight to sleep.
"It was that morning, while I was asleep, that my parents where told the devastating news in Craigavon Area Hospital that I had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
"I was then sent to the haematology ward of the Children's Hospital in Belfast, where I was to live for the next few months.
"However, when I was diagnosed my skin colour fluctuated between yellow and white. I was five stone in weight with no body fat and no appetite for food or water.
"With no body fat as a barrier we were told the cancer would first attack my organs. My condition was very severe."
As a young girl, Rachelle wasn't aware of what was really wrong with her at the time.
The word cancer was never used around her, and she was told she had a "blood disorder" and had to take medicine to get better.
"I remember sitting in a small rocking chair by the window in the common room of the ward attached to a drip of chemo," said Rachelle.
"The chair had the name of a child 'in memory of' written on the back of it. I remember in my innocence not knowing what it actually meant.
"I thought a child had donated it when they had got better. I thought children, my friends, who had left the ward had finished their treatment, had got better and had went home.
"I remember thinking how fortunate they were to get home. I only found out when I was 18 that those children never went home. They had died. I don't believe that chemotherapy or treatment would have cured me on its own, it was the power of prayer that saved me.
"During prayer, when the hand of a Christian faith healer was laid on my head, I could feel my fingertips and legs and toes tingle with pins and needles.
"I believe this was the cancer exiting my body. I believe I was truly touched by the hand of God that evening. After this, everything in my life changed.
"New life was breathed back into my body. The colour returned to my face and I even had rosy cheeks.
"My appetite returned and I started to put on weight. The doctors never again found a cancerous cell in my body.
"No amount of chemo could kill any of my blood cells, which were too strong. I remember the doctors were astounded and kept giving me stronger doses to knock my blood counts down in case, on the off-chance, one cell was still hiding in my body, but my counts continued to rise regardless of what dosage of chemo was given to me. To me this was a miracle in itself.
"Until now it's only been those closest to me that have known this about me.
"The negative and hostile reactions to a recent headline in the Belfast Telegraph about God's healing of Joshua Martin from cancer was the reason I decided it was time to openly reveal this about myself. I felt in my heart that now was the right time. God was calling to me and telling me that the time is now."
Rachelle saw negative reactions to Joshua's story on social media and decided to speak out.
"I remember seeing posts on Facebook of people, who when they saw the headline, reacted in frustration, anger and embarrassment. As if suggesting: 'how could God have a place in today's world, our world'?" she said.
"This made me immediately want to scream out in joy and say to these people that, like Joshua Martin, I was also cured from cancer through prayer!
"I wanted to tell them that miracles do happen; that it is all true.
"But I was afraid. I was afraid of the certain hostile reaction I knew I would get from those already commenting with anger on Joshua's story.
"I was afraid of laying myself bare to almost certain mocking and ridicule; the same that Joshua's article had received. My silence felt like denial of knowing God.
"I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to voice a Christian opinion today without there following a barrage of hostility.
"There should be mutual respect for all faiths and religions in our country.
"Those who know me know me to be an intelligent and sensible person.
"I owe it to God to tell everyone what He has done for me, how He saved my life once and hasn't left my side since.
"I have never looked back. So many doors have been opened for me. I was told that having missed two years of school I would never achieve above average in school, yet when I went back I achieved all As and achieved a first class honours degree in 2014 in primary teaching.
"I have my dream job of working with children and am now currently back studying for my Masters degree in education.
"Also, when cancer stripped me of all femininity, the Lord then opened the door for me to gain confidence as a model and travel the world as a Miss Ireland, none of which I had sought out for myself, and just this year I was voted Portadown's Person To Be Proud Of for 2015 in my home town, which I am extremely appreciative of.
"Everything I suffered I feel the Lord has compensated tenfold. I believe the Lord has raised me up in this way for His glory. As it says in Isaiah 60, verses 1-2 'Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the Earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee'.
"I believe I was saved for a reason, I was given an extension in this life and have had life breathed back into my body. I don't fully know why, but what I do know is that I am part of His wonderful plan.
"I'd like to believe that God's plan is for me to be a reflection of hope that will shine out like a beacon of light to others; that God is here for us if we just truly believe in Him.
"It is clear to me now that it is the will of God that Joshua and I are both here today, that we did not die, but lived to declare the works of the Lord.
"I love the Lord and I am certainly not afraid of what reaction my story brings, because He is my strength and my protector and goes before me in all things."