Being diagnosed with cancer has a way of putting things in perspective. Many patients think about life and the people around them differently. Many turn to or reconnect with their faith.
As leaders of communities of faith and spirituality, it is our responsibility to support those in need. Those facing challenges associated with a cancer diagnosis can benefit from the support of pastoral care within the health care system and in the extended community.
At our hospital outside Chicago, where I am Director of Pastoral Care, we believe our faith and spiritual leaders can and should be a resource for patients of all faiths. We encourage our patients to turn to their faith and spiritual beliefs to restore optimism, strength and ultimately a deeper love for themselves so they can transcend their current battles.
Cancer patients must make several important decisions that affect their personal care, families, job and financial well-being. Many newly diagnosed patients feel immobilized and experience stress that demands our support. Getting spiritual support when battling cancer can make a difference.
Support services should extend beyond the patient. The impact of a health challenge on a patient’s immediate family can be incredible. A study in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology found that nearly half of patients’ spouses experienced adjustment disorders and clinical depression.
Faith and spiritual communities can provide organized support systems for families. Support groups for adults and youth in religious and spiritual institutions are extremely helpful. Children of patients are particularly in need at such times.
A 2010 study in Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review addressed problem behavior in children of chronically ill parents. The results suggested a family-centered approach in health care.
We, as leaders in faith and spiritual communities, have the skills and the responsibility to provide the emotional comfort that can change the lives of our patients and their loved ones. Let’s embrace our strengths as a community so we can support those battling cancer.