As the young man stood in the hospital radiology room getting ready for a chest X-ray, the nurse spoke to him, "Please remove the metal you're wearing around your neck."

Actually, it was a uniquely shaped cross with the face of Jesus etched onto it. She must have seen the fear in his eyes as he gently rubbed this precious gift his parents had given him years ago.

"If we wrap it in masking tape, you can keep it on during the X-ray," she said.

"Thank you," the young man replied. That symbol of Jesus around his neck was the last vestige of the Christian faith to which he'd once looked as a source of hope.

Later in his room, the young man lay on the hospital bed, feeling empty and afraid. His health over the previous 13 months had declined rapidly. From his first venereal disease in January of the previous year to his current admission to Boston City Hospital with thrush, he had 12 frightening symptoms-nearly one for each month.

In the young man's mind, these health problems-all occurring within ...

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