Spirituality and Breast Cancer
Thankfully, scientists have made many advances in breast cancer treatments. However, receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can still be devastating and terrifying. The immediate focus is on your medical treatment plan, but it usually doesn’t include any aspects addressing your mind, spirit, and soul. Integrating spirituality into your treatment plan can offer many benefits during your treatment.
The word spirituality is derived from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. It’s the relationship you have with a force or power beyond yourself. That force could be God, or a life force or essence surrounding us all. Others might draw spiritual inspiration from philosophy or the arts.
Spirituality differs from religion. It is the expression or experience of the sacred, the individual search for meaning, or a power greater than one’s existence. Religion is based on an organized system or group of practices and beliefs. Some people belong to a religious institution, while others can be spiritual but not religious.
Religion and spirituality are similar in that they both have values and practices that help guide you through life. The main difference between spirituality and religion is that religion is a faith or belief system held by a community. Thus, religion is experienced as part of a group, whereas spirituality is more personal. Some people express their spirituality through religion.
Cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and upbringing can impact spirituality. For example, some people may find comfort in childhood traditions while others may search for new ones.
The Benefits of Spirituality
How spirituality and health are related is not fully understood; however, research suggests that spirituality can help patients develop and maintain a positive attitude that helps them feel better and improves their well-being.
Recent studies have shown that cancer patients who reported integrating spirituality and religion into their lives also reported better physical health and fewer physical symptoms of cancer.
Other studies reported that cancer patients with emotional aspects of religion and spirituality exhibited positive mental health. In other words, these patients had less anxiety, depression, or distress. Positive thinking can have a tremendous impact on everything from preventing illness to your healing capacity.
How Spirituality Can Help You During Treatment
Spirituality can be a significant resource for patients to help them cope with fear and anxiety during the various stages of the cancer journey. Those spiritual moments when you feel connected to a deeper meaning or reality, such as when you feel close to nature, speak with a loved one, or sense a greater power, can be extremely powerful and healing.
A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling many emotions. You may be scared, anxious, hopeless, lonely, and angry. It may force you to contemplate your mortality, which can be heavy at any age. It’s not unusual for your mind to be swimming with questions. You wonder what the outcome will be and why this is happening to you.
Some people may find their beliefs and hopes for the future challenged. Others may feel anger toward God or a higher power and experience a loss of faith. Finally, those without a strong support system might feel alone.
For some people, this is where the benefit of spirituality can make a difference. Research has shown that spirituality can offer many benefits to patients from diagnosis to survivorship. Spirituality can help you cope and decrease fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. It can also increase feelings of hope, optimism, and peace.
Integrating spirituality into traditional and complementary treatment has also been shown to improve feelings of well-being and empowerment, which can benefit your treatment.
Integrating Spirituality Into Your Treatment Plan
There are multiple ways to incorporate spiritual practices or rituals to help you cope with breast cancer. Spiritual exercises can be as simple as concentrating on gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal, listening to music, practicing mindfulness, or prayer. You can also find spirituality through guided imagery, yoga, pilates, or Tai Chi classes. Another option may be working with a Reiki energy healer.
Tips for Strengthening Your Spirit
There are many ways to focus on your spirituality, such as:
Meditate or pray regularly. Meditating or praying can help you remain calm and hopeful during challenging times.
Reflect quietly in nature: Take in the natural beauty around you, breathe and reflect on your inner peace. Seeing untouched nature can fill you with a sense of wonderment and harmony.
Read spiritual writings. Sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita provide information about ancient wisdom traditions. Reading these materials may help you feel a sense of connection with more divine reality.
Reach out to others for help. Speaking to someone about your feelings, fears, thoughts, and concerns can help you feel a sense of peace. You may consider speaking with a counselor, clergy or joining a support group.
Visit spiritual places and works of art. Visiting spiritual sites, places of historical significance, and places with art and sculpture may help you appreciate beauty.
Ask someone else to pray for you. Having someone who cares deeply about your well-being can help eliminate your feeling of loneliness.
Repeat a passage from a vital spiritual or religious text. The act of repeating important text as if it were a mantra, using the language of your religion in your prayers, can have a calming effect.
Count on Surviving Breast Cancer
In addition to keeping you up-to-date on the most recent medical information, we offer multiple programs, including a few designed to help connect you with your spirituality. For example, Movement Mondays offer free, online classes including yoga, pilates, meditation, etc. Also, Healing Through The Arts is a free, online program to generate your creative side as a way to connect with your spirituality.
You are always welcome to become part of our empowering community, including our Breast Cancer Survivor & Friends Meet and Greets. We’re always here for you!