Spirituality is the way you find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace-I call it finding your ‘Zen’. Some people find spirituality through prayer or ‘religion’ but many others find it through music, yoga, art, nature, meditation or even exercise.
It is clear that the body, mind and spirit are connected and the health of any one of these elements seems to affect the others. Some research shows that things such as positive beliefs, comfort and strength gained from religion, meditation and prayer can contribute in healing. This can be so important for cancer patients because not only is the diagnosis stressful but often the treatments can take a toll on ones body. Improving your spiritual health may not cure the disease but will often make you feel better, help you cope with the cancer and lessen the stress of the cancer treatments.
Most doctors are still uncomfortable discussing spirituality with patients but I feel it should be part of the routine initial history intake and is just as important as what medications the patient takes or the patient’s family history. It gives me great insight as to how a patient will handle stress, if I know the way they find their inner peace.
If your doctor does not address this with you, you should be able to discuss your spirituality or beliefs openly with him or her and how it affects your health. If you don’t think you doctor is addressing this, then usually you will be referred to someone who is trained to in this area.
I personally find peace and strength in prayer and always offer this to my patients at their initial consultation. I find the word ‘pray’ crosses all boundaries and all religions and therefore does not offend any particular religion and is a safe way to offer my comfort to patients. In my 25 years of practicing medicine, I have only had two patients who told me they didn’t believe in prayer. Patients tell me all the time how much they appreciate that I pray for them and that they know a higher power is working through me.
If you want to try to improve your spiritual health, then identify things that give you a sense of inner peace and take the worry and stress out of your life. Then do those things on a regular basis, whether it be meditating before you receive your chemotherapy or listening to music while you undergo an X-ray procedure or radiation treatment. Stress is immunosuppressive and very bad for cancer patients so it is important to try to eliminate or decrease it as much as possible.
Set aside time every day to do the things that help you decrease stress such as praying, meditating, singing, taking nature walks, reading, doing yoga or exercising.
Dr. Monica Rocco is a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Austin Cancer Centers. She attended the University of Texas as an undergraduate. She attended University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and then did her general surgical residency at the University of California, Davis in Sacramento, California. She has been the surgical director of Breast Care program in Santa Maria, California for last fifteen years and the surgical director of the Mission Hope Cancer Center for the last seven years. She specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, breast disease and genetic testing for breast cancer. She has returned home to Texas to be near family and friends.
No one wants to hear the words ‘you have cancer’. Most of my patients walk into the oﬃce with anxiety and fear. My goal is for them to walk out with answers and hope. I want to treat each patient with compassion and oﬀer an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan. I walk the journey along with them and oﬀer support when needed.
If you or someone you know is facing breast cancer and could use our support, please visit our website or call our helpline at 512-524-2560.
Consider making a donation to BCRC and give the gift that makes a real difference for the women in Central Texas facing breast cancer right NOW. Visit bcrc.org to learn more about how we can help, or click here if you wish to give back today.