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October, breast cancer & God

Breast cancer 'pink' seems to be omni-present in October -- radio ads, sports, bill boards. It always annoys me because I feel like marketers exploit well-meaning citizens to make money off of an important issue by making people believe they are somehow helping reduce breast cancer or helping breast cancer patients. Everything from bracelets, tee-shirts, athletic wear, ads reminding women to get screened and even 'pink' toilet races do little for the actual cause while doing a lot for radio stations advertising budgets and city council members looking for notoriety.

My mother was a breast cancer survivor. In 1990, she was diagnosed with a fast moving type of breast cancer and her doctor recommended immediate action - surgical removal of both breasts with glands followed by a rigorous chemotherapy plan. A second doctor concurred. Her primary physician told her, "If it was my wife, she would be in surgery tomorrow."

I was pregnant with my daughter and actively involved in street ministry at the time, volunteering daily on my lunch hours and evenings with the Salvation Army Greenhouse, a project for disenfranchised youth living on the streets of Portland, Oregon. As my mother fast-tracked toward surgery, everyone started praying fervently for her healing--her three sisters, our family, each of our churches. A vast network ignited in prayer for my mom.

Her surgery for breast and gland removal was scheduled, and the oncologists started discussing follow-up chemotherapy, while the surgical team started initial discussions for re-constructive surgeries and options. The road ahead looked long, tedious and painful while the present situation was overwhelming at times for my mom and dad. The only peace to be found was in prayer and communion with God; the world the doctors presented was terrifying and incredibly uncertain. We all continued to pray.

And then the answer came. And with it came such peace. The Bible is chock-full of promises for healing, but when the Spirit quickens your spirit and makes the applicable promise alive, you know the promise is fulfilled. It is then that “deep calls to deep” and you know without a doubt that God has moved and answered the cries of your heart; the peace and joy is consuming. I had the answer and the peace of God’s assurance: the cancer was gone.

On the morning of the surgery I assured mom again that the cancer was gone. Naturally, the doctors weren’t interested in a last-minute diagnostic on a cancer that had already been tested and proven; they proceeded with the planned surgery. It was a Christian hospital but miracles like disappearing cancers are nothing compared to the thought of malpractice suits, so they didn’t give it a second thought. The surgery was long but successful, removing all of the ‘cancerous’ tissue and glands.

It is standard procedure to send surgically removed tissue to a lab for examination and confirmation of cancerous cells and to assure the team and patient that all the cancerous tissue was removed. This was done with the breast and gland tissue removed from my mom. The confirmation came: no cancerous tissue or cells! God’s Word was good! The cancer was gone! Just like the lepers that Jesus told to “Go show yourselves to the priest” to prove their healing was complete, my mom’s healing was shown and proved to the medical professionals. God has no problem proving Himself to the established authorities.

After surgery, my mother went through the trials of chemotherapy, experiencing the painful treatments and ugly side-effects of nausea, weight loss and hair loss. She later opted for the reconstructive surgery that was very invasive and traumatic, and eventually she recovered full range of motion, unusual at that time due to the extensive scar tissue that inhibits most patient’s ever recovering full range of motion. My mom went on to volunteer with Reach for Recovery, an organization of the American Cancer Society that helps people from the first diagnosis of breast cancer through the lengthy recovery process. She didn’t buy in to the mega-marketing-monolithic pink and Komen hype, but worked hands-on with women who, like herself, were faced with fears, questions of faith, dilemmas of family and finances and the prospect of losing part of their feminine identity. She was accepted as a volunteer well before the five year standard of “cancer free” because of her impressive recovery.

If you are faced with similar concerns, be encouraged. God is faithful. You can trust and rely on Him. Get in the Word and pray; seek out an experienced prayer partner or anointed servant of God.

If you are interested in supporting breast cancer patients, survivors or research, and are smart enough not to fall for the “pink” brainwashing, check out some of the non-traditional options that give your donation high impact:

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