Cancer and your spirituality


For many cancer patients, being diagnosed and undergoing treatment acts as a wakeup call, triggering taking stock and rethinking what’s important in life. In our ongoing search for purpose and meaning, spirituality often plays a vital role.

A normal part of every cancer journey – and for survivors in particular - is to try to put life into perspective.
What’s just happened?
What’s life all about?
And, more importantly, why me?

It’s natural to search for meaning and to revaluate what’s important to you right now, and to turn to faith or spirituality for the answers you need.

According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, USA, many cancer survivors tend to look at their faith and spirituality in new ways. For some, this intensifies, while others find themselves filled with doubt and questioning their beliefs.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute offers the following guidelines on how to try find meaning after cancer:

  • Talk about your emotional turmoil

Ask your medical team or spiritual advisor to put you in touch with fellow cancer survivors of your faith or professionals who are trained to help you to deal with your life questions.

  • Put your thoughts on paper

Keep a journal of your thoughts about what gives meaning to your life right now.

  • Give back

Think about volunteering to help fellow cancer patients by either reaching out to newly-diagnosed people who you know or chat to your medical team about where you can best help.

  • Take stock

Cancer’s often regarded as a wakeup call that offers a second shot at life. Make sure that this time round you live it they way you choose to by asking yourself the following questions: Are my roles in my family fulfilling, or am I doing what others want and expect of me? What’s on my bucket list - what haven’t I done that I want to do? Am I happy career-wise or am I just sitting back in a comfort zone?

  • Participate in research

Talk to your medical team about getting involved in a research study that may, for example, be trying to identify the effects of cancer and its treatment on survivors. Joining a research study is always voluntary and you could benefit both yourself and others.

  • Explore your spirituality

Experts maintain that having faith and spirituality in place, can help you to adjust to the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer and your treatment. Studies have shown that cancer survivors who rely on these pillars tend to experience increased hope and optimism, less regret, higher life satisfaction and feelings of inner peace and tend to comply more with treatment and live a healthier lifestyle. Furthermore research indicates that spirituality can have a direct impact on your quality of life by decreasing:

  • Feelings of anxiety, depression and anger
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Blood pressure
  • Levels of pain, nausea and discomfort.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to empower cancer patients and their families by promoting a better understanding of a cancer diagnosis. The views expressed by all of the contributing healthcare providers are their independent, professional medical opinions, aimed at supporting patients. These views do not necessarily constitute the views of Discovery Health.


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