Questions with regards to St. Gianna Molla


#1

Please know that in no way is this post meant to take away from St. Gianna Molla - I just think there is a great deal of confusion and actually, I have become confused regarding her life.
There is no doubt in my mind that St. Gianna lead a very Christian life, one that I am amazed occured within the past 50 years. I don’t know of anyone I’ve ever heard of in today’s world saying things - especially to her husband that she did - her husband was truly devout too, to have desired to have a life with her when she wrote to him ":“With God’s help and blessing, we will do all we can to make our new family a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires and actions. … We will be working with God in His creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him”.
Now to go on about the part on which I am confused - I have heard numerous people mention that she had cancer and that she died from not getting cancer treatment because she was afraid of hurting her 2 month old pregnancy which was to be her 4th child/pregnancy (6th if you count the miscarriages). I have read quite a bit about her and see this come up quite often, but less often is what I believe to be what really happened. I believe that she was two months pregnant and found that she had a fibroma - a type of tumor that was attached to her uterus. She had already had two miscarriages prior to this pregnancy - I wouldn’t be suprized if the fibroma had helped the miscarriages occur. There was a surgery which she could have in the 60’s to help remove the tumor- which would help her and the fetus/child she carried at the time. It was risky at the time (now if the tumor is small enough they can do this laproscopically, sometimes) - she had the surgery, and the tumor was succesfully taken out. When the tumor was taken out, it’s pathology was tested and it was shown to be Benign - in other words, it was NOT cancerous. Her pregnancy continued fairly normally for the next 7 months - during this time she took care of her other three children and took care of her patients as she was a doctor. A few days prior to delivering, she found she had an infection. Before delivering the child, she told her husband that she wanted the child to be saved if there was a choice between her life and the the life of her child. The child was delivered safely and no such choice had to be made, but unfortunately by this time, the infection had turned septic. About a week later she died saying “I love you Jesus” multiple times. It was a fairly painful death, apparently. There are sources such as the Priests for Life source which says she had cancer and didn’t have a treatment because she feared for the pregnancy- but in the source that I believe the most accurate, it was specified that the removed tumor was NOT malignant- and that she did NOT die of cancer rather of the infection in her uterus. The site that I got that information from is the Vatican web site :vatican.va/news_services/…-molla_en.html

I’m confused at why there are 2 such different stories. I’m wondering if because there was a possibility that the fibroma was cancerous (which they found it was not) that some didn’t realize that it was not cancerous. I’m not trying to imply in any way that this lessens her sanctity - on the contrary, I believe she was already on her way to Sainthood just by her life. Even though it was a different time, it was still a time where many women might have had the children and continued to work - I did read that she had decided that after this child she would stop practicing and stay home as a mother. She’s a great example for both types of women today, those that have families and decide to continue with their careers and for those that have families and decide they want to stay home with them. I’m that many believeread quite a bit about St. Gianna Molla but I Never read that she had cancer. I have had a few people mention this to me, can you please tell me where you got this information? This is what I have read happenned: Please correct me if someone can show some information to the contrary. Perhaps some people think that the tumor she had was malignant - everything I’ve read said it was benign - meaning NOT cancerous. I’m not asking this to be mean or anything, just it seems that many seem to believe the same as this poster, that St. Gianna had cancer and refused treatment and that’s why she died. I can’t find anything saying she had cancer - this in no way means that I don’t believe she was a wonderful Christ like example. This is what I’ve read happened - again, please correct me if I"m incorrect. I assume the Vatican is correct about this - if someone knows differently, please let me know.

God Bless
Rye
Annie


#2

What would be the difference if it were cancer or not? She had a fibroma that the doctors wanted to remove…and it would have possibly caused the child to die.

Although fibromas are not cancerous, they are somewhat dangerous the same. Especially if they are large. My mom had severe fibroids and she needed to have a hysterectomy. Some can cause severe bleeding.

The bottom line she denied a sugery that would have jeopardized her baby’s life.

There are medical advances now that didn’t exist before. I personally don’t think it matters if St. Gianna had cancer or another ailment.


#3

Annie, I can’t say why there are two different stories, but I’ve always heard it was a fibroma not cancer. Maybe somewhere in the translation and promulgation of the story it went from fibroma or fibroid tumor to tumor and tumors are often assumed to be or associated with cancer. Actually fibroids can be cancerous, very rarely, but hers wasn’t. I think it’s just maybe a mater of things getting ‘lost’ in translation.

Bottom line is she refused treatment that would have cost her baby’s life even though she could have licitly chosen the treatment. That is a heroic act and that is part of why she is a saint. It is important to get the story right though, because it’s very relevant to some contemporary ideas re: abortion and medical treatment in pregnancy.


#4

I agree with MG. the point is there is a lot of pressure on pregnant women to accept all kinds of treatments which threaten the baby, or for women of child-bearing age to use ABC because of treatment and drugs for other conditions which could harm a fetus. St. Gianna is a remarkable example and patron for such women. It is also not possible to compare treatment options available today to what was offered at that time, not that it matters for the underlying example of saintly motherhood she offers.

DD’s MIL developed thyroid cancer during her second pregnancy and was advised, this was even before 1973 ,by her doctor to abort which would have been legal (although of course immoral) even then, because the treatment, radiation, would certainly gravely damage or kill the fetus. She elected to take the life-saving treatment and trust the baby to God. Baby is now a gorgeous healthy mother of 3 normal boys, who has been a pro athlete and graduated magna cum laude from her college.

I think the point is trust in the Lord with all matters regarding pregnancy and child-bearing, as anti-cultural a message as you will find today.


#5

I’ve heard cyst and tumor, never read or understood that St Molla had cancer. Sounds like one of those urban myths :shrug:

This is a very good book:

books.google.com/books?id=9cmoVDcbYqQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Gianna+Molla&ei=bYjgSvCwBY7GMrWwiOkD#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Here is another good resource:

saints.sqpn.com/saint-gianna-beretta-molla/


#6

[quote=Mary Gail]The bottom line she denied a sugery that would have jeopardized her baby’s life.
[/quote]

[quote=shannyk]Bottom line is she refused treatment that would have cost her baby’s life even though she could have licitly chosen the treatment.
[/quote]

I think what the OP is saying (and I am equally confused by the refused-treatment story as I have heard that as well) is that Gianna DID have surgery. She DID have the fibroid removed. What killed her wasn’t rejecting life-saving surgery, but a uterine infection from a c-section that could not be controlled.

saintgianna.org/medicalcircum.htm

According to the above site, she had three options:

  1. Total hysterectomy while pregnant. Loss of fetus, loss of future children.
  2. Removal of fibroid tumor while terminating pregnancy to allow for subsequent children.
  3. Removal of fibroid tumor while being as careful as possible to keep the uterus safe, though still a risk to the fetus.

She chose # 3.

What killed her was the infection she got from her term c-section delivery.

So I agree it’s wrong and confusing to say she had cancer (or even a benign tumor) and refused treatment in favor of her baby’s life, because that’s not what happened…she DID accept the treatment and knew it did have risks to the baby.


#7

Just wanted to add:

In the end, I think the message of Gianna is this:

She chose to reject one surgery that would have been contrary to her faith and morals - that of terminating the pregnancy and then removing the fibroid to save the uterus for future children.

She also opted out of a morally licit surgery to have a total hysterectomy while pregnant, knowing that while her uterus was diseased and could be removed, it would end in the certain death of her child.

Instead, she chose option three, which many women today likely wouldn’t choose, which was **to treat both her life and her baby’s life as equally important **- she wanted her own health restored for her own sake and so the pregnancy would continue without complications thus saving the baby’s life, but at the same time knew that the surgery would risk them both.

In the end, they were both saved from the surgery.

(What happened later - the infection from the c-section - really has nothing to do with the choice of surgery she made earlier to save BOTH lives.)

So, yes, her act of choosing surgery was heroic because it was the only option in which her child would have a chance at life. All other options meant certain death for the baby.


#8

This thread made me curious, as I too had heard the simplified (and misleading) version of St. Gianna’s story wherein she refused cancer treatment because of the danger to her unborn child and died as a result.

I think carefully reading the link given by sanctareparata two posts ago (saintgianna.org/medicalcircum.htm) clears up the confusion.

The facts it seems are these:

St. Gianna died because of an infection following a C-section. The C-section option may have been chosen because of her prior surgery to remove a uterine tumor (although that is unclear, as she seems to have had very difficult pregnancies, poor woman.)

Her heroic act was in choosing to have the uterine tumor removed instead of having a hysterectomy while pregnant.

This act was heroic because, at the time, doctors could not determine whether or not the uterine tumor was likely to be cancerous before removal. The doctors would have (would have had to, for the good of their patients) assumed the worst- that the tumor was likely cancerous and thus a direct threat to St. Gianna’s life.

A hysterectomy under those circumstance and at that time (because medical technology wasn’t as advanced) was considered morally acceptable (i.e. St. Gianna could have chosen it without sin), in the way the removal of the fallopian tube is morally licit in the case of ectopic pregnancy today.

I am sure any prudent doctor would have advised her to have hysterectomy, because of the possibility of cancer. Perhaps, as a doctor herself, she might have given similar advice.

So, not knowing whether she had cancer or not, St. Gianna refused morally licit treatment, in favor of other treatment, that certainly would’ve made her pregnancy more difficult and might (in the worst case) have left her with still-present cancer.

And then she died as a result of a surgery that might not have been necessary had she not opted for the first surgery.

Make sense?


#9

You say she denied treatment - I disagree- there were two treatment options - the surgery and the hysterectomy both put the pregnancy and the mother in danger. I think that she was very lucky that she survived the surgery as well as the pregnancy. What killed her was an infection - which had nothing to do with the pregnancy.
Like I mentioned, I’m not even trying to imply that she was any less of a saint because she didn’t have cancer- but if you look there are lots of false stories about how she heroically denied treatment for her cancer and therefore died. It’s starting to make her story into more of a myth for those that are first learning about it.
God Bless
Rye Aka Annie


#10

You’re right I wasn’t clear, what sancta said was more clear. She refused the treatments that would have meant certain death for her unborn baby, and chose the treatment least likely to do harm to the baby while still treating her health problem.

sanctareparata

Just wanted to add:

In the end, I think the message of Gianna is this:

She chose to reject one surgery that would have been contrary to her faith and morals - that of terminating the pregnancy and then removing the fibroid to save the uterus for future children.

She also opted out of a morally licit surgery to have a total hysterectomy while pregnant, knowing that while her uterus was diseased and could be removed, it would end in the certain death of her child.

Instead, she chose option three, which many women today likely wouldn’t choose, which was to treat both her life and her baby’s life as equally important - she wanted her own health restored for her own sake and so the pregnancy would continue without complications thus saving the baby’s life, but at the same time knew that the surgery would risk them both.

In the end, they were both saved from the surgery.

(What happened later - the infection from the c-section - really has nothing to do with the choice of surgery she made earlier to save BOTH lives.)

So, yes, her act of choosing surgery was heroic because it was the only option in which her child would have a chance at life. All other options meant certain death for the baby.


closed #11

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.