Thriving Through Your Healing Journey
by Steven Spidell, DMin, BCC
Thriving with cancer, not just surviving, is becoming the goal of many cancer survivors. While accessing spiritual resources has mostly been an individual pursuit, help is coming from an unexpected source: the rapid rise of integrative and complementary medical approaches within the healthcare system.
This movement in healthcare has been set into motion by the demand of cancer survivors for holistic approaches to both cancer treatment and the healing processes. A holistic approach recognizes that mind, body, and spirit are not separate entities but expressions of a larger, multidimensional realm; hence, the flourishing of spiritual practices in the lives of cancer survivors and their caregivers.
Grey, sterile corridors, bus-station style waiting rooms, and schedules that whipsaw exhausted patients from exam room to exam room are being replaced with color and art, comfortable, spacious waiting areas, and respect for the time and coordination of cancer survivors’ appointments. Hospitals now talk about creating a healing environment and the positive benefits of beauty, music, and the therapeutics of sound, touch, and sight. Modern hospitals are becoming places in which chemistry is complemented with kindness.
Your spiritual options and opportunities are as wide as your imagination.
Drawing upon a multitude of spiritual resources can lead to stress reduction, energy renewal and flow, personal centeredness and serenity, the emergence of meaning, a positive view that your life truly matters, and the explosive, lifetransforming power of hope. Energy medicine and practices, such as healing touch, yoga, Reiki, massage, music therapy, and dance, free up the natural flow of energy within the body. The greater the flow, the greater the healing effects. Nurturing mental and emotional sharpness through mindfulness, meditation, journaling, aromatherapy, “walking the labyrinth,” visualization, hypnosis, art, and poetry releases the incredible powers of the mind to contribute to the healing process.
Involvement in religious communities has also been shown to provide valuable resources for the healing journey. Health benefits are derived from being an active member of a faith community, participating in worship, praying, and celebrating through rituals and sacraments. Religious beliefs also make a dynamic contribution to living well through such principles as forgiveness, gratitude, generosity, healing, service, meaning, and salvation. Many religions have practices that can increase your awareness of the spiritual forces that can transform your life.
Be sure to check the opportunities available in your very own hospital and clinic for their complementary and integrative programs. Your spiritual options and opportunities are as wide as your imagination. The essential issue is to be intentional about discovering and incorporating those spiritual resources that make sense to you, your history, and your personality. To experience the benefit, you must use spiritual resources just as you use medicine to encourage healing.
People with cancer are being offered more and more treatment options. We must also actively decide to bring spiritual perspectives and resources into play, not just to survive, but also to thrive.
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Rev. Dr. Steven Spidell is a board certified chaplain and executive director of Presbyterian Outreach to Patients in Houston, TX.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2012.