So many families have been touched by cancer that just the mention of the word is scary to hear and often feels like a death sentence. While this is not always the case and many cancers are treatable, the fear is often tied to better known risk factors and more awareness. This week, actress Angelina Jolie brought that reality to the forefront by going public with a personal decision she made.
Jolie is a carrier of the gene defect (BRCA1) that greatly increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. According to reports, once the genetic marker was found, Jolie was given an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. With surgery, her risk dropped below 5%. The risk is different for every woman. The AP reported that while Jolie’s risk is high, only 5% to ten percent of all breast cancers are linked to the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. The gene mutation is rare.
Jolie, given the odds, had a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Her mother died at age 56 from ovarian cancer and Jolie wanted to increase her chances of being alive to raise her children. She felt empowered by the decision and went public to help other women know their options.
Dr. Lyndsay Harris, The Director of the Breast Cancer Program at Case Western Reserve University wants you to know that there are other options for those with a family history of breast cancer—regular screenings every six months with mammograms alternating with MRI, medical therapy to greatly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, and removing the ovaries to prevent ovarian and breast cancer.
In the end, what may have been right for Jolie, may not be right for other women.
When my mom was given a cancer diagnosis twice in her life, we naturally felt afraid. But as a Christian family, we took this fear to God. We prayed for healing, we consulted doctors, agreed to certain procedures and said NO to others. We allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us. Both times my mom was healed of cancer. She lived to be almost 85 and did not die from cancer. Others I know, had different outcomes and their faith and petitions to God were no less than ours. Ultimately, God holds our days in His hands.
For the Christian, the decision regarding prevention and treatment needs to be steeped in prayer, not fear-based, but made with solid information and wise counsel from treating physicians. CANCER is a word that challenges our propensity to fear. The words of 2 Timothy 1:7, encourage us not to react in fear, not be empowered in our own strength, but depend on God to lead and guide us. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. If you are facing the risk of cancer, be empowered by our God, who alone is wise.
Do not be anxious about anything (cancer), but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (decisions). And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7.
People of faith are not alone in decision-making. God listens to our requests and asks us to bring all things to Him in prayer. If you face a tough decision like Angelina did, take it to God in prayer. Be led by His Spirit. Whatever you feel led to to do, rest in His peace.