The 60-year-old woman from Murcia, southern Spain, became "obsessed with religion" during a two month period before being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
"Insofar as her personality traits were concerned, she was not a woman given to exaltation, suggestion, or repeated obsessions," reported her medical team from Murcia's Hospital General Universitario Morales Meseguerin a case report published in the journal Neurocase.
"These characteristics were in stark contrast to the fact that in the space of a very short time, she had developed a growing interest in the Bible and other sacred writings and spent the hours of the day reciting endless religious litanies,"
She began to have regular visions of the Virgin Mary reporting that she was “seeing, feeling, and conversing with the Virgin Mary… episodes could last for hours or even days.”
Her friends and family thought she might be suffering from depression because she had been caring for a terminally ill relative at the time, and urged her to seek medical advice.
Doctors performed an MRI, and discovered several lesions in her brain, which a biopsy revealed was glioblastoma multiforme, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.
The tumors were too large to treat with surgery, so the woman received chemotherapy and radiation for the cancer. Her doctors also prescribed antipsychotic drugs for her, and during a five-week treatment, her religious fervour and the visions gradually disappeared.
In this patient's case, "it is clear that the religious experience represented a fracture" from her prior behavior that was "not preceded by a gradual change in her thinking and acting," wrote the researchers. "Nor was there any kind of trigger or reason [for the behavior change] except for the disease, and hence, it can be considered a clearly pathological experience," they said.
The woman died within eight months of the tumour being detected.