Exploring what matters now

All through our lives, we make plans for our future and work hard to fulfill them. Getting the dream job or the coveted promotion, finding the right partner and building a life together, buying a house, bringing up kids, the list is virtually endless. We tackle all obstacles in our way to the best of our abilities and keep moving forward. However, a Cancer diagnosis can throw the entire life off-balance. Even if the cancer is treated, recurrence is always possible. Hence, life changes. This is also a time when the patient starts looking at the deeper aspects of life – spiritual, philosophical, religious, etc. Many questions cloud the mind like – What did I do wrong? What should I do now? What is the purpose of life? However, the most important aspect at this time is exploring what matters now!

Exploring What Matters Now

Well, first things first, accept the fact that you will need time to deal with your diagnosis and allow yourself that time. This is all a part of the healing process. Give up the hunt of the cause of the cancer – focus on accepting it first. Remember, a person who accepts his diagnosis, is eventually filled with hope – which has a positive impact on the treatment itself!

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

-Dalai Lama


Spirituality, in simple words, is the relationship between a human being and a power greater than himself/herself which can improve the quality of life. Now, spirituality can be broadly divided into two factors:

  • Meaning/Peace factor – the meaning of life, purpose of existence, etc.
  • Faith factor – finding strength or comfort in spiritual beliefs, etc.

According to a 2015 study, the meaning/peace factor of spirituality was found to be associated with an improved quality of life. Unfortunately, spirituality does not find place in conventional medicine practices. However, this is now changing with some hospitals developing spirituality programs to deliver compassionate care taking the spiritual force in consideration.

In a study done to understand the factors which predict that a cancer patient might outlive the prognoses, the following themes were found:

  • A clear understanding of what was important in life
  • A feeling of having the power to shape life around what was truly valued
  • Acceptance of the life-altering situation
  • Actions not solely dependent on how others would feel

The Importance of Joy

The psychology of happiness has the following six principles:

  • Identity: Finding joy within yourself than in the outside world.
  • Choice: Taking control of your happiness every single day.
  • Abundance: Find out the abundance that can make you ecstatic.
  • Healing forgiveness: Moving from a place of feeling broken to a place where you are okay. 
  • Relationship: Love and be loved.
  • Now: Stop searching for happiness. Make every moment a happy moment.

If there is one thing certain about life – it is the end of life or death. While we can’t do much about that, we can certainly ensure that we make our life a joyous journey and keep our mind, body, and spirit happy.

The Importance of Hope

Here is the thing about Cancer – the best Oncologist in the world cannot say with absolute certainty that a particular patient can never be cured of cancer. Cancer is a disease where the world has seen more miracles than in any other. And, if we were to pint out to one aspect that can make the impossible-possible, it is Hope.

  • Identify the elements in your current situation that are undesirable and how these can change
  • Work towards bringing these changes into your life without losing the sight of a healthier, happier YOU.

Key Points

  • Meaning, purpose, joy and spirituality are all closely related concepts in human existence.
  • Spirituality is distinct from religiosity. Spiritual care does not necessarily need to come from religious sources.
  • Many patients are interested in including spiritual beliefs and practices in their medical and health approaches. Healthcare providers are generally less willing to do so.
  • Spiritual health and well-being correlate with higher quality of life and may improve some symptoms, including anxiety, depression and pain.
  • Receiving spiritual care may influence positive patient outcomes after a cancer diagnosis.
  • Taking a spiritual history has been recommended by a Palliative Care Consensus Conference. The HOPE or FICA tools assists clinicians with such a history.
  • Joy and laughter promote wellness and healing. We provide suggestions for increasing these in your life.

References & More Information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. ZenOnco.io Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. National Cancer Institute. Spirituality in Cancer Care (PDQ®)–Patient Version. Viewed on October 1, 2018.
  4. Lerner M. Spiritual Approaches to Cancer (chapter 9). In Choices In Healing: Integrating The Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer. MIT Press. 1994.
  5. Delgado-Guay MO. Spirituality and religiosity in supportive and palliative care. Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care. 2014 Sep;8(3):308-13.
  6. Christina M. Puchalski, MD, MS. Physicians and Patients’ Spirituality: Ethical Concerns and Boundaries in Spirituality and Health. Virtual Mentor. 2009;11(10):804-815. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2009.11.10.oped1-0910.
  7. Puchalski CM. Spirituality and the care of patients at the end-of-life: an essential component of care. Omega (Westport). 2007-2008;56(1):33-46.
  8. Richardson P. Assessment and implementation of spirituality and religiosity in cancer care: effects on patient outcomes. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. 2012 Aug;16(4):E150-5.
  9. Bai M, Lazenby M. A systematic review of associations between spiritual well-being and quality of life at the scale and factor levels in studies among patients with cancer. Journal of Palliative Medicine. 2015 Mar;18(3):286-98.
  10. Peteet JR, Balboni MJ. Spirituality and religion in oncology. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2013 Jul-Aug;63(4):280-9.
  11. The New School at Commonweal:
  12. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, and Christina Puchalski, MD: Spiritual Dimensions of End of Life

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