Tammy Peterson speaks about her healing from cancer and journey to Catholicism

Tammy Peterson Tammy Peterson speaks with Colm Flynn on “EWTN News in Depth” on Feb. 2, 2024. | Credit: “EWTN News in Depth”

Tammy Peterson — wife of psychologist and author Dr. Jordan Peterson — plans to enter the Catholic Church this Easter. In an interview with “EWTN News In Depth,” she shared about the powerful role the rosary has played in her faith journey and in her physical healing from cancer. 

Peterson, who has a YouTube podcast called “The Tammy Peterson Podcast” with almost 60,000 subscribers, was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare form of kidney cancer — a Bellini tumor. She was told she had 10 months to live. 

“We went into [the doctor’s] office and he started handing me papers to sign, and his hands were shaking,” she recalled. “And I thought, this isn’t good news.”

“He said, a Bellini tumor, they are very rare and they grow so fast that the only way they’re diagnosed is after someone passes away,” she continued.

But a lot can happen in 10 months. 

When asked about her experience of prayer after her diagnosis, Peterson explained that a friend of hers, Queenie Yu, came to visit her in the hospital.

“She showed up and she had two rosaries that were blessed by the pope,” Peterson recalled.

Yu invited Peterson to pray with her and helped teach her the rosary. The visits were a mix of Peterson sharing prayer intentions for those in her family and Queenie teaching her about the mysteries of the rosary and praying with her. 

“She came every day for five weeks,” Peterson recalled.

Peterson said she would usually spend about 20 minutes sharing her intentions with Queenie as she thought about all the people she would be leaving behind. 

“I would have been leaving my father, who was like 90 at the time, my sisters, my brothers, my husband, my children, my friends — I was leaving everybody” she reflected. “[Queenie] would say, ‘Who do you want to pray for?’ at the beginning of each mystery. ‘What’s your intention?’”

“The prayer was enough to take me from this long drawn-out meditation into these people that I loved and was going to miss, to bringing it back to a place where I was paying attention, but in a very rhythmical methodical way,” she said. 

Peterson recalled that the “the rhythm of the Hail Marys” and the physicality of touching the beads helped keep her “present.”

“I wouldn’t let the fears of the next day or whatever was coming bother me,” Peterson said. “I would just pray. And I continue to do that now. I don’t let myself worry.”

When asked about when she first received the diagnosis, Peterson said she was “in shock,” and it was only in telling her son the news that she realized she was worth the fight against it. 

“I saw the grief in his eyes, which was way more grief than I had for myself — there was no comparison, and it reflected back on me,” she explained. “And when I saw it, I realized that I was worthy. I was worthy of staying alive — or fighting for my life, anyway.”

“I really didn’t put up any defense or questioning at all until I saw my son, and then I felt this peace just fill me and knowledge that I didn’t have before,” she said. “And I said to my son, ‘You know that doctor — he’s a man, and he has an opinion. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not right. The only way we’ll know is God, because God will decide when I’m going to die.’”

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When she was in the hospital and things were going badly, Peterson recalled that she had a thought, or prayer, for her husband’s sake. 

“When I was back in the hospital again with this more serious problem, my husband was just beside himself,” she said. “And I felt sorry for him, and I wanted to save him some of the pain that he was feeling and so I thought … maybe it was a prayer, right? … I said, ‘You know, I’ll be back at it by Aug. 19.’ That’s our anniversary.”

And on Aug. 19th — their 32nd anniversary — she began to heal.

Peterson also prayed a novena for the sick during her time in the hospital. 

“That was at the end, when they finally found out there was a doctor in Pennsylvania that might have been able to help me,” she said. “And it was on the fifth day of praying those prayers that the leak in my system closed up.”

When asked about the doctors’ response, Peterson recalled: “So I was sitting out having breakfast, and their eyes got big and they said, ‘You’re better.’”

“And I went into the hospital ... and in half an hour, I was out of the hospital and then they phoned me every week for a month. At the end of the month, they said, ‘You’re better. Goodbye. Good luck.’”

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Though Peterson grew up Protestant and stopped attending church when she was 12, her great-grandmother was Catholic. When her cousin learned she was sick, she sent Peterson a letter. Pulling out a rosary, Peterson explained: “In her letter I found this rosary. And this was my great-grandmother’s rosary, and she carried it with her always. And so now it would be like 150 years old, I suppose.” 

The rosary had passed from her great-grandmother to her grandmother, who then gave it to her aunt, who passed it on to her cousin, until it reached her. 

Peterson’s health has been good ever since, and she hopes to continue her mission. In addition to her podcast she travels a lot with her husband and takes the stage to speak and open his events.

“I hope that Jordan and I can continue to speak the truth: to try to tell the stories that we’re inspired to tell, and hope that that can be of some help to people who are listening,” she concluded. 

The full Feb. 2, 2024 edition of "EWTN News in Depth" and interview with Tammy Peterson is below.

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