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Spiritual Wellness Needs to Be a Part of Cancer Treatment

Written by Scott Sanders, info@cancerwell.org

Cancer affects every part of a person’s life. Their body. Their mind. Their soul. Their family. Their hobbies. Their work. Yet when people talk about cancer treatment or management, the focus typically remains solely on the physical body of a cancer patient. It shouldn’t. Taking a more holistic approach to cancer treatment and remembering the crucial role that emotional and spiritual wellness have in any person’s life only help the recovery process.

The Huffington Post recaps an analysis of medical studies that suggests a link between positive religious and spiritual beliefs to favorable mental, physical and socialoutcomes. For example, spiritual well-being was associated with less anxiety and depression. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are increasingly seeing the value in fostering positive spiritual experiences for those who need and want it as part of their overall treatment strategy.

That probably does not come as a surprise to anyone. Spirituality has long been used by humans as a way of explaining the world around us. Many structured religions answer (or at least prepare you to grapple with) existential questions about life, deathand the purpose of everything that happens in between. Meanwhile, less structured, more earthbound spiritual practices do much of the same by allowing people to feel balanced and connected to the universe around them. It’s important to remember that spiritual wellness takes many forms.

Spiritual practice — which you might refer to as religious observation or prayer or meditation or mindfulness — keeps you in tune with your body and emotions. That is a particularly important for people who have cancer because they are susceptible to things like opioid addiction, which typically begins out of necessityafter a physically demanding treatment like surgery, but quickly evolves into risky behavior with potentially fatal consequences.

Cancer patients should be aware of the addictive nature of opioids and take measures to avoid it. This means seeking out doctors with good reputations who won’t over-prescribe medications. It also means embracing non-medical pain management techniques so you can use painkillers only when absolutely necessary. Many acts of spiritual and emotional self-care, such as mindful meditation and yoga, fall under this category and are a good thing for people with cancer to embrace. 

Similarly, spiritual self-care can offer a way for people with cancer to cope with the physical and emotional burden of having cancer. One national expert in spiritual wellness as a part of cancer therapy noted to Coping With Cancermagazine that a cancer diagnosis can make patients feel incredibly isolated, and being part of a spiritual community, such as a church, mosque or synagogue, offers a much-needed respite from feeling as if you are alone on an island. Activities including studying scripture or doing art projects related to expressions of spirituality also offer opportunities for people with cancer to keep their minds active and focused on something beyond their illness.

In addition to finding ways to enhance your spiritual wellness, any form of self-care during cancer treatment should include quality nutrition, adequate rest and time spent on enjoyable activities. Try to incorporate healthy, palatable meals into your diet, or see if your healthcare coverage provides nutrition therapyto provide guidance. Make sure to allow yourself time to rest as often as needed, avoiding feelings of guilt when you’re overcome with fatigue. And find activities that spark joy in your life, like a craft that makes you happy, time with friends or snuggling with your pet. Remember, true overall self-care bridges the physical and spiritual. 

Life after a cancer diagnosis can be frantic and stressful. There are so many things you cannot control. Your physical body will have treatment needs and those should almost always be prioritized. However, as the medical professionals take care of your organs and cells, you should be looking inward and making sure your emotional and spiritual needs are also being addressed. 

Photo via Pixabay

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