The Big C

The news that the chances of developing breast cancer have gone up for women may have caused some concern this morning. As it happens, nuns are statistically more at risk than most other groups of women, although, by and large, we don’t don’t share the lifestyle choices that increase the risk (e.g. heavy drinking). I mention this because I wouldn’t want anyone reading what follows to think, “Oh, it’s all right for them. They don’t stand much chance of suffering from it.”

There are other illnesses that are just as life-threatening, but there is something about cancer that scares us mightily. Even if we have not experienced it personally, we all know people who have and are aware of the indignities and humiliations that cancer can inflict. In such situations, the conventional offerings of religion can sound hollow and false. As with any grief (and we do grieve when our bodies or the bodies of those we love are assailed with cancer), there is a part that religion cannot reach, the numb part at the centre of it all. That is why prayer for the sick is so important. We do not pray for them to get better, though that is certainly legitimate, we pray the prayer the sick cannot make for themselves. That is what praying for the sick means. Maybe this Friday we could pray especially for all those diagnosed with breast cancer and not sure how to cope, for their families and friends. It will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.


8 thoughts on “The Big C”

  1. Working at a large medical practice, I am all too aware of this … I try & offer up a prayer when a lady comes in to see the Dr with a breast lump (& invariably goes a way with a hospital referral)

    It is humbling to sense the anxiety of these patients and I feel very inadequate, but attempt to put them at their ease as much as I can.

    No not easy ….

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  3. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 16 months ago, and my prayer became utterly desperate and didn’t feel “right”, but the knowledge that others were praying for me was incredibly comforting and helpful. I was told then that 1 in 8 women were being diagnosed, and several colleagues who are nuns told me it affects many of their sisters. Thank God, I came through treatment successfully – was even able to work through most of it – & it’s all in His hands for the future. I regularly pray for all those coping with any kind of cancer. Thank you for you call for others to do this.

    • It has to do with the fact that for the most part nuns are nuliparous i.e. childless. Because the body has not been through the hormonal changes required for pregnancy, parturition and lactation. Sadly this renders them at increased risk of developing breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

  4. Early detection and treatment are very important with any diagnosis of cancer. This is easier done with cancer of the breast. It goes without saying that breast self-examination and regular screening is of the essence.

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