Leaning into Faith as a Cancer Survivor
- Breast cancer survivor Robin Roberts is a very faith-based person. This week, she talked about the importance in placing your trust in God, rather than things like our finances or career.
- Roberts has been supporting her partner, Amber Laign, during her own breast cancer journey. Thankfully, Laign finished her radiation treatments last month.
- Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research, so there are many treatment options out there. Mammograms, a standard screening procedure for breast cancer, and self breast exams can save lives.
- Although it’s not for everyone, leaning into faith can help cancer warriors stay positive when times get tough.
Roberts is a very faith-based person. Pretty much every day of the week, she posts a video to her social media sharing an uplifting morning message and prayer from her dressing room. And Tuesday’s topic of discussion was about placing your trust in God.
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“If we put our trust in our finances, they can go down overnight,” Roberts said in the recent video. “If we put our trust in our job or our career, it can still suddenly change for any number of reasons.
“That’s why it is so important, you know this, to put your trust in God because He is the source of our strength, ideas, creativity, resources and wisdom.”
She goes on to acknowledge that appreciation for our companies and income is important, but it’s also crucial to realize that these things are simply “resources.”
“They are simply a resource that the source is using,” she said. “You don’t have to seek the blessings. Just seek Him and you know what? The blessings will seek you.”
From there, she went on to her daily prayer to God.
“Father, thank you. Thank you that you are constantly working, constantly showing us your goodness with every good gift that comes into our lives,” she said. “We believe and declare that we’re going to live today with an attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness in Jesus name, Amen.”
As she always does, the beloved news achor concluded her prayer by pressing a button that lets out a sound of someone’s voice – presumably her partner Amber Laign’s.
“Right, sweet Amber?” she said before pressing the button. “You have yourself a blessed day and be a blessing.”
Robin Roberts and Amber Laign Battle Breast Cancer
Roberts has been with her partner, Laign, for 17 years. And throughout their relationship, they’ve had to support each other during many highs and lows – including each of their breast cancer battles. Thankfully, it seems that Roberts’ faith has helped her keep a positive outlook on life despite the challenges she’s faced.
Roberts received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2007. Ironically, she was diagnosed after finding a lump in her breast during her preparation for a news segment on performing self-checks.
Thankfully, Roberts was declared cancer-free after surgery. But Roberts shared that Laign had to face breast cancer as well in February. Since her partner’s diagnosis, Roberts has been doing everything she can to support her partner throughout her cancer journey.
“I didn’t realize how much I had blocked out during my journey, and it was because of sweet Amber—because she protected me and navigated for me,” Roberts said in a previous interview with Ellen Degeneres. “So, I’m doing the same thing for her.”
And though she’s “had some complications with the chemotherapy” and “challenging” weeks to work through, Laign has since triumphantly completed her radiation treatments. In a post from July, Roberts shared the exciting news with fans.
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“Sweet Amber completing radiation, a very important phase of her treatment!,” Roberts wrote under a video of Laign ringing a bell to signify the end of radiation. “We both thank you for all your well wishes and prayers. Proud of her and all fellow Thrivers for your grit and grace during a challenging time. This is indeed my #mondaymotivation.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. Even still, we know that a breast cancer diagnosis can come at any age.
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with breast cancer, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Turing to Faith as a Cancer Survivor
Roberts has been very open about how faith has gotten her through tough times and encourages others to lean into their own faith. So, it’s no surprise that she’s still incorporating prayer as the cancer survivor’s partner tackles her own battle with breast cancer.
For some people, turning to faith can be a great way to keep spirits high when cancer starts taking an emotional and/or physical toll. Monica Layton, for example, also believes in the power of faith during a fight with cancer. She turned to her church congregation for support as she battled ovarian cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic and then went through recovery.
“[I’ve] gone to the same church for a long time, so it’s like another family that really supports me,” she told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “We’re Episcopalian, and when I was having surgery my priest came to the hospital and stayed and prayed with my family the whole time – and it was a long surgery. And then he came back to the hospital every day to pray with me.”
In addition to praying for her, Layton’s church also sent flowers, cards and a prayer blanket and often visited her.
“They were so kind,” Layton said. “I think my faith has been very important, crucial for me. Just the prayer really helps, I think.”