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Q. I was raised in a non-religious household and was never exposed to any spiritual or religious practices or ideas. How can spirituality help me cope with my cancer?


Spirituality can be defined in multiple ways, but primarily it has to do with the idea of connectedness. The word “spirit” comes from the Latin root spiritus, which literally means “breath.” Connecting with the spiritual part of ourselves means getting in touch with that which gives us life, not only in the biological sense, but also in terms of what gives our life meaning and purpose.

One approach to spirituality is found in the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means being present in the moment and fully aware of what is going on, both inside and outside of yourself. Walking through a beautiful garden, listening to music, or even taking a shower or eating a meal can be considered spiritual if the element of mindfulness is present. Being in a state of mindfulness can provide a sense of calm and enhance the quality of daily life.

You might also consider reading some of the sacred texts, such as the Bible, the Koran, or Bhagavata. The spiritual traditions of both East and West have explored the question of why people suffer – often the “why” question of cancer. Faith-based texts, which were written and refined over centuries, can provide insights and new perspectives on suffering. They can also be a source of comfort and guidance.

Another benefit of spirituality comes from having a community of people who share similar beliefs. In difficult times, this community can serve as a resource to fall back on. Members of a spiritual community can reach out to the individual or family through phone calls, visits, prayer lists, and other ways.

For more information read CancerCare’s fact sheet, Strengthening the Spirit.

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