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KATHLEEN Evans was in a "bad way". Struggling to breathe, sweating and shaking uncontrollably, there was little doctors could do for her advanced lung cancer, so aggressive it had already spread to her brain.

As she prepared for what seemed imminent death, the grandmother of 20 pinned a small photograph of Mary MacKillop, with a tiny piece of the 19th century nun's habit attached, to her nightdress.

"All I had left was prayer," she says. Death still has not come for the woman who says she is an "ordinary, everyday person".

She kept her secret while the Vatican examined her case over more than a decade but Mrs Evans, now 66, outed herself yesterday as the second Australian who had been miraculously cured of terminal illness by Mother Mary MacKillop.

The medical profession was stunned when, 10 months after Mrs Evans was given a maximum of two months to live, X-ray scans showed her cancer had disappeared. The radiologist who took the scan was so incredulous he asked her to have another.

"The first question I asked him was `had it shrunk?' And he said: `no, it's gone'."

Mrs Evans was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1993, when the youngest of her five children was 13. A biopsy revealed it had spread and it was too late for chemotherapy. "I asked my doctor to see me through until the end."

It was then that Mrs Evans' friend gave her the relic of MacKillop. The same friend handed prayer cards from the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Mother Mary's order, to her family and friends. Together with Mrs Evans and her husband Barry, they all prayed together for nine days to Mother Mary, asking the nun to pray to God to heal Mrs Evans' cancer.

She immediately began to feel stronger, she said. Two weeks later, Mrs Evans went to a religious retreat, where her parish priest also prayed to MacKillop.

Mrs Evans is in no doubt it was the intercession of MacKillop that healed her cancer. But she has no idea why she was chosen.

"When I finally do get upstairs that'll be the first question I'll ask," she quipped yesterday.

The Sisters of St Joseph said yesterday they expect some indication from Rome next month or in March as to the timeframe for MacKillop's canonisation.

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