How Spirituality Helped Me Cope with My Cancer Diagnosis
Many patients with cancer, including myself, use spiritual or religious beliefs to help cope with many challenging aspects of living with cancer. This is called "spiritual coping" and may take different forms depending on the person.1 Spirituality and religion, although often closely associated, have different meanings. Spirituality is defined as an "individual’s sense of peace, purpose and connection to others and beliefs about the meaning of life."1 Religion is a "specific set of beliefs and priorities usually within in an organized group."1
The stress of living with cancer
Cancer patients must deal with many stressors including physical symptoms, treatment side effects, changes in relationships, unpredictability of the disease, unclear expectations about recovery, and vulnerability to recurrence. I experienced each of these. Incapacitating fatigue prevented me from returning to work. My husband became the caregiver, cooking, cleaning, shopping for groceries, and driving me to the oncologist. I was uncertain as to whether my lymphoma would respond to treatment and, if it did, how much time did I have before the cancer returned? I can remember worrying that I would not be around for the milestones in my granddaughter’s life. Anticipating this, I purchased greeting cards for upcoming events in her life. In each card, I wrote a personal message to let her know how much I loved her and indicated a piece of my jewelry as a gift to celebrate the occasion.
Finding an outlet through spirituality and religion
Fortunately, I found spirituality helped me create a positive mental attitude. Rediscovering this spirituality helped me feel better, reduced my anxiety, and assisted me in adjusting to the effects of cancer and its treatment. I was able to speak with a close family friend, a priest, about religious issues. Addressing my religious feelings provided me with a satisfaction with life.
I discovered other therapies such as yoga and meditation which also promoted a sense of inner peace.
Appreciating important milestones
While my lymphoma is in remission, I still experience scan-xiety as my annual CAT scan approaches. My spirituality has given me strength to deal with living with cancer. I was delighted this past spring to have the opportunity to witness one of my granddaughter’s milestones. Her Confirmation card was already addressed in my stash of cards. How blessed I am to be here to see her special occasion.
I encourage cancer patients who think it might be helpful to meet with a religious or spiritual support person to help deal with spiritual issues in an effort to cope with the many issues associated with living with cancer.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?