Hearing the words “you have cancer” is a life changing event that for many people causes stress, fear and loneliness. Although life will almost certainly change dramatically, for many people this can bring some positive changes. A diagnosis of cancer can be a chance to try to understand the greater purpose or reason behind your life. This search for meaning can often lead to a greater understanding of yourself and others and clarify for you what really matters. People report feeling a greater sense of inner peace and satisfaction with life. While no one is happy to receive a diagnosis of cancer, many people have used the experience to identify things in their lives that they would like to change. Finding meaning and purpose is not a constant search and for each person the process will be different. Many people find that that their perspective and what is meaningful will change over time depending on their unique situation.
People’s reasons for seeking meaning in the experience can include:
- A wish to understand the personal significance of one’s diagnosis
- A path to understanding and accepting the emotional and physical changes that have occurred
- An opportunity to review life so far
- A change in one’s sense of self or one’s relationship to others
- A change in what interests you or what is important to you following your diagnosis
- How to live best with one’s “new normal”
- Finding and maintaining hope
The following activities may help you begin to find meaning after your diagnosis:
- Use a journal to keep track of your thoughts and feelings
- Explore other creative outlets such as art or photography
- Spend time in quiet thought or meditation.
- Enjoy nature
- Share your thoughts and ideas and listen to the perspectives of other survivors
- Talk to a licensed counselor and join a support group
Being diagnosed with cancer or having a loved one with cancer can also have an impact on your feelings about your spiritually and religion. For many people spirituality and religion are interchangeable but for some there is a distinction. People may think of themselves as spiritual or religious or both.
After a diagnosis of cancer, questions like why me or why us are common. While there are often not good answers to these kinds of questions, turning to one’s faith can be an important source of strength in challenging times. For others, who feel abandoned by their faith or punished, turning away from their religion can feel like the right approach. There are no right or wrong ways to involve spirituality and religion in your life but it whatever your thoughts, it can be helpful to share them with others and to listen to their thoughts on this subject.