, Corbin, KY

June 10, 2013

Double mastectomy and the price of life

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Was this really necessary? Has fear overcome reason? Is it not mutilating one’s body when it is presently healthy irrational and capricious?

Is scare tactics crowding our good sense? Is there an overreaction to the wondrous finds of genetic screening? Has a deaf ear been given to anti-cancer drugs and regular MRI screenings? If and when actual malignancy might be detected, have not the options of radiation, lumpectomy or partial breast removal been ignored? Is not the BRCA screening along with all the other medical procedures (counsel, surgery, reconstruction) pursued by a wealthy celebrity (Angelina Jolie) and out of reach financially by most all women? Even with Obamacare will it not be an extreme rarity that an insurance company could be held responsible for a “ possible cancer development”? Will our society be able to rationally look at the data – only 0.24 percent of women have Jolie’s mutation BRCA1 gene? Can we all keeps our cool acknowledging that 88% of women will never develop breast cancer?

 Yet, many medical experts say it was a rational, heroic and wise decision for Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy; underscored by the statement of Jolie’s doctor, “She now has a 5 percent cancer risk as compared to her previous status of 85 percent.”

 Even with this extraordinary (and many would say exorbitant) measure for avoiding death, death will still happen; even perhaps by cancer’s chance of 5 percent. None of us have a no-death risk.  All our efforts, even the most modern and expensive, eventually fail.

  The biggest effort and concern we all have is maintaining, preserving and enjoying life - the universal quest of every human being. Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life”. [John 14:6] promises exactly what we all want, with a 100 percent guarantee. Live his Gospel and we live forever!

 Jesus however, is very radical and demanding. We dare not compromise his Gospel allowing anything to impede the acquisition of eternal life and happiness. Gouging out an eye, cutting off a hand or a foot if need be, must be done [Mark 9:43-47]. This of course is not a literal directive but an empathic clarification of a willingness to do whatever it takes to fulfill the law of love as declared in Jesus’ Gospel – forgiving and serving all, even enemies; giving to and serving the poor; time for prayer and worship; sexual pleasure exclusively within the holy bond of matrimony; no stealing, lying, coveting or taking the holy name of God in vain. At times these may appear as difficult and radical as eye gouging or hand and foot severance… or even the severity of a double mastectomy. Perhaps we all could use some of Angelina Jolie’s determination to pay whatever the price to secure eternal life.

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology blog at inspirationsandideas