After you have been diagnosed with a disease like malignant mesothelioma, you have to tackle some important questions: What will be the best treatment for me? How will I pay for medical care? Was I exposed to asbestos because of my job? Do I need to consult an asbestos attorney?
Of course, this is only scratching the surface of the kinds of questions that cancer usually inspires. Eventually, you may ask yourself more difficult questions: Why is this happening to me? Did I do something wrong to deserve this? How can I reassure my children and grandchildren that I am going to be okay, when I am not even sure of that myself?
What is the difference between one and the other?
Spirituality and being religious are not always the same thing. For some people, they may be independent of each other.
Spirituality is the collection of ideas or beliefs that one has about inner peace, their relationships to the people around them and the natural world, and how these factors may influence how they conduct their behavior.
For some individuals, spirituality is a private matter. Others choose to express their spirituality by joining an organized religion and becoming part of a community of believers. These groups can include Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and many more.
How does living with mesothelioma affect one’s spirituality?
Many experts in oncology understand that a mesothelioma diagnosis or similar news can force individuals to experience a lot of turmoil on the inside. They may question their value as human beings, or even begin to doubt belief they once held about the existence of God.
Such thoughts can have a negative impact on life to the point that the cancer itself becomes too difficult to deal with, leading patients to become anxious or depressed.
A lot of doctors recognize the importance of treating the whole person and not just the physical experience of illness. For this reason, some clinicians may ask you questions about your religious denomination, philosophy on life, prayer or meditation practices, or thoughts on the afterlife. This information can help doctors become more sensitive to your specific needs as a spiritual person. If your doctor does not discuss these things, and they are important to you, you should feel free to speak your mind.
Addressing your spiritual needs in healthcare
Some hospitals and cancer treatment centers have their own in-house team of spiritual and religious advisers. For example, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has chaplains that come from Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and other traditions. They can help patients like you with tasks that may involve prayer, meditation or dietary needs.
If you are at a medical facility that does not have a staff member to help address your specific religious or spiritual needs, feel free to ask them for a referral.
The important thing is to make sure that no aspect of your health – physical, emotional or spiritual – is ignored. In fact, there are many scientific studies that link spiritual and religious well-being to a number of benefits, such as decreased depression, better cardiovascular health and a higher quality of life during cancer treatment.
Spiritual counseling may also be helpful for any children in your family who have a hard time grasping what it means for you to have cancer. Talking about your own spiritual beliefs may help them understand what it means to get sick or pass away. This can give them an easier grip for now, and in the future, they may develop their own beliefs.