Spirituality and the Cancer Patient
Last updated: May 2022
The diagnosis of blood cancer can greatly affect your life bringing it to a complete stop. We need to fill our lives with positive thoughts and hope. I have found that my faith and spirituality have provided comfort during my cancer journey.
Spirituality has helped me accept my diagnosis and find the courage to move forward. Religion or spirituality is a term that encompasses a variety of concepts, practices, beliefs, and worldviews.
How is spirituality different from religion?
Religion may be considered as a defined set of beliefs and practices usually within an organized group. Spirituality may be considered an individual’s purpose, sense of peace, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life.1
Spirituality means the way one looks at the world and may include faith, religious beliefs, and values. Some studies have demonstrated that spiritual or religious beliefs may create positive mental attitudes that can help the patient feel better.
Spiritual support was an important part of my cancer care
Feeling overwhelmed with my cancer diagnosis, I wondered what was the purpose of my life? Why did this happen to me? Finding spiritual support became an important part of my cancer care.
My spirituality gave me a sense of belonging to something bigger than me. It helped me tolerate the effects of cancer and its treatment. I felt less anger and experienced more positive feelings of hope, optimism, and inner peace.
Spiritual wellbeing improves health
Several studies demonstrate the physician’s support of spiritual well-being can improve the patient’s quality of life. Spiritual wellbeing may help improve health and quality of life by reducing anxiety, depression, anger and discomfort and the sense of isolation. Patients reported an increase in positive feelings, hope and optimism and a sense of inner peace.2
Ways people express spirituality
Each person may have different spiritual needs depending on cultural and religious traditions. Everyone has their own beliefs and practices. What spirituality may mean to the individual?
- Finding spirituality through religion or faith.
- Practice certain actions such as prayer, attendance at Mass. I have found that daily Mass has given me hope and the ability to manage my cancer and its impact.
- Activity such as meditation or yoga. Both these activities help reduce my anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Volunteer and do things for others. I discovered volunteering at the rehabilitation center where my husband was treated, provided satisfaction and personal pride while helping others. This became my chance to “give back.”
- Teaching. The opportunity to teach young students religious instruction allowed me the opportunity to share and live my spirituality.
Spiritual support for the cancer survivor
Patients have indicated that religion or spirituality has an important impact on the ability to cope and manage the cancer experience. Spirituality and religion are very personal issues. The physician and caregiver must respect the patient’s views. The healthcare team should give support and be non-judgmental.
My priorities of family, friends, and faith
Cancer can certainly change a person’s life and values. I made changes in my life to reflect what mattered most to me. Family, friends, and faith became my priorities. One may look for a sense of peace or connection with others. I found that forgiveness of past grievances gave me a sense of peace.
The healthcare team can help a patient with spiritual needs by referring the patient to a hospital chaplain or support group, or other therapies that have shown to increase spiritual well-being such as mindfulness relaxation or programs such as writing, drawing or music therapy.
How do you feel about your support system?