Do Not Fear…

Earlier this year, I had surgery. I’ve mentioned a bit about my hysterectomy, but for the most part, my blog has been pretty quiet this summer while I recover. Now I’d like to share with you a bit about the day of my surgery. Not the technical details, rather how God gave me comfort and reassurance through a rather remarkable meeting.

IMG_2691[1]It’s not surprising that I was terribly nervous in the days leading up to my surgery date. When I asked for prayers on social media, a Facebook friend posted the reference Isaiah 41:10 & 13. The first verse I’m very familiar with, as it’s the verse that Mom wrote in the front of every Bible that she ever gave me. (Did Mom know me or what?) But I couldn’t remember what verse 13 said, so I looked it up.

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand…

For I, Yahweh your God,
hold your right hand
and say to you: Do not fear,
I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:10 & 13 HCSB

When I read that verse, I nearly cried. The picture of God holding my hand and telling me not to be afraid because He would help me was exactly what I needed.

I repeated those verses to myself as I sat in the pre-op waiting room on the day of my hysterectomy. The nurse that came out and called my name looked familiar, and when she introduced herself I recognized her name right away. Turns out that she knew my grandparents from one of the churches that Grandpa had preached at. We chatted a bit about my grandparents and how they were doing as she helped prepare me for surgery. Seeing a familiar face calmed my nerves, and I’m convinced that it was just one more way that God was showing me that He would be with me through it all.

Eventually, I was wheeled into the operating room, and just before I fell asleep one of the nurses squeezed my hand and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you.” It reminded me so much of Isaiah 41:13, that the verse was the last thing on my mind as I drifted off.

My surgery went well. Recovery took a bit longer than I would have liked, but thankfully, was free of complications.

What I’ll always remember about the day that I had surgery is how God showed me that He really will be there beside me every step of the way.

Knowing Is Half the Battle

“I’ll be honest with you. This family history is very ugly.”

It was something of a wake-up call when the doctor said that to me. I knew there was a lot of cancer on both sides of my family. Some of them were diagnosed as young as in their 30s. But until that day, it had never hit me how unusual that was. In the back of my mind I knew that I was probably at a little higher risk for certain cancers, but it had not occurred to me how serious that risk potentially was.

The doctor strongly recommended genetic screening for gene mutations related to hereditary cancers, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that have been recently receiving media attention due to their link to breast and ovarian cancer. I knew that a couple of my relatives had tested positive for some of these mutations. My husband and I agreed that the test was a prudent thing to have done, despite the cost.

Less than a week later, I met with the genetic counselor to go over my family history of cancer. She too expressed surprise by just how prevalent cancer was in my family tree and remarked that she’d never seen a list quite that long before. I was sent downstairs to the lab to have my blood drawn and then returned the sample to the doctor’s office to be sent off to Myriad labs in Utah for testing.

And then I waited. I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking the wait was! We were most concerned about the BRCA mutations since there is so much breast and ovarian cancer in my family history. I’ve seen people I love struggle through surgery and treatments for both of those cancers. It scared me just how dramatically those tiny gene mutations could increase my own risk of facing those diseases. Admittedly, a positive result does not guarantee that you’ll end up with cancer, just as a negative result doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never be diagnosed with cancer. It does tip the statistics quite a bit though.

IMG_2369[1]When my results finally came in, I was surprised and relieved that I tested negative for all of the gene mutations that they checked for. The genetic counselor was just as surprised! I still have a slightly increased risk based on my family medical history, but it’s much lower than it could have been.

Do I regret having the testing done now that it came back negative? Not at all! The genetic screening for cancer-related gene mutations is not a test that everyone needs by any means, but I more than fit the screening guidelines for someone at risk of these mutations. I have information now that I didn’t have before. That will help me and my doctor decide what screenings I should have and when I should have them.

If you’re wondering whether you should consider the genetic screening for the mutations linked to hereditary cancer, please talk to your doctor. It’s like the line from those old G.I. Joe PSAs from the Saturday morning cartoons, “Knowing is half the battle.”