In psychology we learn about all of the ways people cope – sublimation, rationalization, reaction formation, etc.  I think the biggest one I see in clinic is denial.

I am working with a surgeon this month who does a lot of breast biopsies and mastectomies.  He’d shown me a mammogram earlier of a woman with certain cancer- the shaggy white edges of the dense mass on the film was ugly looking, as most cancer is.  He purposely scheduled her biopsy for a day I was in clinic. The woman was a spunky young 73 year old who had never had surgery and was on no medications.  She had also missed several years of mams because she felt so healthy.

We used the US machine to find the big mass and then using a fancy biopsy gun took several small pieces that looked like 1/2 inch long spaghetti noodles. Unlike breast tissue, these noodles of tissue where very hard and firm like cancer.  The surgeon said nonchalantly “well, we’ll let you know in a few days, but this is undoubtedly cancer”

The woman didn’t even blink an eye, and even smiled when she said “oh, now doctor, you don’t know that! I’m trusting in THE LORD, I have a lot of people praying for me, it’s not cancer”.

She looked at me for validation, but I couldn’t give it. This was cancer and she was displaying denial.  It’s not like we were saying “we’ll let you know IF…but we’ll let you know what KIND” I smiled back trying to convey the seriousness of the world she was getting ready to enter.  I just hope her absolute confidence in God won’t shatter when we tell her the pathology results…  because, the results came back today, and it is invasive ductal cancer.

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