Question: What can our spiritual care providers do to help cancer patients?
A serious illness, like cancer, can turn your world upside down, affecting your very identity. “How did it happen?” “Who am I?” “What do I believe?” “How will my family handle this? are just some of the questions we can ask ourselves.
Even a stage one cancer diagnosis can send shivers down your spine. The question becomes, “How do I find solid ground?” It is that place of peace where decisions can be made and a sense of control is regained. Family, friends, and personal spiritual or religious beliefs can all help in this process.
In an effort to determine how best to help patients diagnosed with cancer achieve better outcomes, research began, including how spiritual beliefs and/or religious practices could make a difference. The results were very helpful and showed that, yes, they can make a difference, not only for the patient, but also for their family.
Much research has shown that spirituality and religious beliefs can be very important in helping a person deal with and make decisions about treatments and next steps. It is important to note that not all individuals have the same belief system.
Our world is made up of many different religions, philosophies, spiritual practices, but whether you are an atheist, Christian, Buddhist, etc., we all have the ability to tap into this place where we find meaning based on our personal belief. system and tools we use to bring peace, hope and renewal into our lives.
It is the place where we can find strength in the midst of the changes and challenges in our lives. It is the basis of spiritual beliefs and practices that each of us can grasp. For many, this involves regular spiritual practices, religious beliefs, and religious community. For all, it is this place of renewal and strength to continue.
Spiritual practices can help patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families find deeper meaning and experience a sense of personal growth during cancer treatment, while living with cancer and as a cancer survivor. . Patients who rely on their faith or spirituality tend to experience increased hope and optimism, lack of regret, greater satisfaction with life, and feelings of inner peace.
Additionally, patients who practice a religious tradition or are in touch with their personal spirituality tend to be more compliant with treatment and lead healthier lives. Studies have also shown that spirituality can have a direct impact on quality of life by contributing to physical health. Reported benefits include decreased feelings of anxiety, loneliness, alcohol consumption, as well as lower blood pressure, better pain control, nausea and discomfort.
However, for some, the initial reaction to a cancer diagnosis may challenge that person in such a way that they question everything they have believed, producing the opposite effect on their sense of spirituality. They doubt their religious or spiritual beliefs, religious values and may become angry with God.
Spiritual distress can make it harder for patients to cope with cancer (or any serious illness) and its treatment. This is where a spiritual care provider (chaplain and/or spiritual leader) can make a difference and help a person overcome feelings of betrayal, anger, fear, sadness, etc. Having someone listen to you while you share your doubts, fears, and anger can be very therapeutic. Expressing feelings of shaken belief to someone can be very helpful in restoring faith.
Join us at 5 p.m. on Thursday, February 10, in the Mission Hope Cancer Center Boardroom, for a community presentation to learn how our chaplain can “coach” to help cancer patients, their families, and caregivers while along their cancer journey.
Dan McGill, Chaplain, Spiritual Care for Dignity Health Central Coast Hospitals, focuses his work on helping patients and families find strength, meaning and hope.
This informal discussion will explore spirituality and the practicalities of staying in touch with loved ones using this dimension of ourselves when words or conversation are not possible. The presentation will use stories and examples as well as listening to participants to explore the countless ways we can stay in touch with our Valentines. Reservations are required as places are limited. Call 805-219-HOPE (4673) to make a reservation.
HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by the Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: MHCC@commonspirit.org