I know you are feeling overwhelmed right now. You are searching for direction, answers, hope. I am here to help. Each month, I will send you some information and advice to try to make your journey a little more manageable…
Healing the Heart and Mind
When you find out that you have cancer, after the shock and disbelief wear off, you look for ways to fight the disease. You find an oncologist and begin treatment. However, before you are able to truly move forward, you may have to take a look back. One path to healing emotionally from cancer is through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the process of releasing feelings of resentment, hurt or anger for past wrongs. Many people living with cancer feel they need to forgive another person in their life for something that happened in the past. You may have been mistreated by a family member or betrayed by a close friend. Sometimes, the person you need to forgive is yourself. Some people with cancer blame themselves for past decisions or lifestyle choices.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is especially important when you’re fighting an illness like cancer. Now, more than ever, you need to focus on healing. The benefits of forgiveness may be experienced on many levels, including theological (your relationship with God), relational (your relationship with others) and biological (your physical well-being).
Specifically, forgiveness may help to:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce chronic pain
- Increase immune function
- Decrease depression and anxiety
- Improve spiritual well-being
- Promote self-confidence
- Improve relationships with others
Like so many things in life, forgiveness is easier to describe than to accomplish. It can be difficult to let go of the anger or hurt inside. Forgiveness can be especially challenging when, deep down, you do not believe the person is entitled to it. Yet, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone or excuse the wrongdoing. Though it may be difficult to conceive of, forgiveness is for you.
When you hold onto anger, bitterness and resentment, it prevents you from living your life fully. You become so wrapped up in your past hurts that you can’t enjoy the present. You may become anxious, depressed, or disconnected from others. When you aren’t able to release these feelings, you are the one who suffers.
With Forgiveness, Comes Peace Well-Being
When you let go of the negative thoughts and feelings, you can begin to focus on positive things in your life. Forgiveness can even lead to understanding and empathy for the one who hurt you. Most of all, forgiveness can bring you peace, happiness, and a sense of well-being so you can move on with your life.
Tips for Finding Forgiveness After Cancer
- Get some perspective. Understand that forgiving doesn’t mean you are condoning the hurtful action. It does mean that you will find a way to release its grip on you. Try to understand that the distress you feel now comes from the hurt and bitterness you continue to carry with you. Forgiveness involves dealing with the past in a healthy way.
- Consider the alternative. Remember, you can either hold onto anger, resentment or hurt, or you can move forward through forgiveness. Try to re-focus on the positives in your life. If you can find a way to see love and kindness around you, it may help you let go of the anger and resentment inside.
- Remember the purpose of forgiveness. Getting someone else to change his or her behavior isn’t the purpose of forgiveness. And, forgiveness may not always lead to reconciliation. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life. Forgiveness comes from inside you and is not dependant on the actions of anyone else.
- Try writing exercises. Writing exercises can help you process your thoughts and feelings. Think about how your reaction to a past hurt has affected your life, health and well-being. You may also want to reflect on times you've hurt others and how they forgave you.
- Make the decision to forgive. Forgiveness allows you to release the control and power the transgressor has had in your life. Remember, it is for your benefit, not theirs. If you are asking someone else for forgiveness, admit what you did, be sincere about your regret, and don’t make excuses.
- Practice patience. Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you have truly reached a state of forgiveness. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself if the memory still brings pain or anger. If it does, keep working to release it. It will probably not happen overnight, but with patience and time, you can heal your heart and mind.
- Redirect your energy. When feelings of hurt and anger surface, try different techniques, such as: relaxation techniques, guided imagery, stress management, deep breathing, meditation, massage, Yoga, drawing, journaling, and music. Put your energy into activities you enjoy rather than dwelling on the experience that has hurt you.
- Seek out spiritual resources. Participation in spiritual and/or religious activities can help you feel more willing to forgive. Read prayers, scriptures, essays, inspirational stories, and/or attend religious services. Think about how the messages tie in with your personal values and beliefs. Ask for guidance from a spiritual leader.
- Stay connected. Cancer is a heavy burden, particularly when you are filled with unforgiveness. Try not to isolate yourself from your loved ones at this time. Instead, nurture your relationships with others. It may also help to join a support group or to seek professional counseling.
- Face forward. Once you are able to forgive, the process of moving on with life begins. This is your opportunity to re-focus on the things that matter most to you. Although you may not be able to forget the past, you can improve the way you live the rest of your life.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING FORGIVENESS DURING CANCER CARE.
About Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is a network of cancer hospitals unlike any other.
CTCA doctors specialize in treating many forms of cancer, including complex and advanced cases. They work as a team, alongside cancer experts across multiple disciplines, to keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.
When you meet with your CTCA care team, they listen to you and provide clear, well-defined choices. Together, you and your care team develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on your unique diagnosis and needs.
Using the latest technologies and advanced tools to fight cancer, your care team provides a powerful combination of treatments. And, while your oncologists help you fight cancer, the rest of your care team provides supportive therapies to help you tolerate treatment, manage side effects, and enjoy a good quality of life.
CTCA is different. You see it in the eyes of fellow patients and in the determination of your doctors. Here, we are on this journey together.
The pastoral care team at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center, led by Rev. Michael Barry, offers a Forgiveness Intervention Program to explore the healing powers of forgiveness during cancer care. Visit the full website to learn more.
CTCA Doctor Selected as a "Top Doctor" in 2009
Dr. Edgar Staren, surgical oncologist and Senior Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at CTCA, was recently selected as one of Chicago’s “Top Doctors” by Chicago Magazine. The annual list honors the best physicians in the Chicago area, across a variety of specialties.