01 May Faith and Philosophy: The Benefits of Self-Care for Cancer Patients
More than 20 years ago, my father’s colorectal cancer was diagnosed as terminal. Nevertheless, he remained philosophical about it all, reminding us that everyone’s time comes eventually. I marveled at his ability to remain positive in spite of what he faced and wondered how he was able to stay upbeat. His determination to stay active and enjoy things he looked forward to, activities that make life worth living, buoyed his spirits and helped see him through the difficult and often painful treatment regimen. It soon became clear to me that self-care and spiritual conviction really do possess renewing, self-sustaining capabilities that can help see one through the bleakest of times. They helped my father maintain tremendous emotional and psychological strength even as his body was dying.
Cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation therapy have a way of draining your body of energy, leaving you wrung out and unmotivated. It’s important to remember that staying active will give you energy, so don’t settle for a sedentary lifestyle that will do nothing to help you in your fight. Physical activity strengthens your body and keeps the mind clear, so look for opportunities to go for a walk among the trees or do some gardening in the backyard. Anything that you enjoy which keeps your body and mind active is decidedly on the plus side.
Mental Health Counseling
Despite his healthy outlook and philosophical mindset, my father needed help to cope with the knowledge that he had only a short time to live. He found solace in the help of a gifted professional counselor who helped him sort through his emotions and come to terms with the inevitable. Seeking professional help is a healthy way to find and maintain a healthy perspective through it all. He was able to combine counseling with a renewed spirituality and a return to church, which provided much-needed comfort and mental reassurance.
Cancer and the means by which it is treated can be painful. For many people, finding relief from such pain can be very difficult, and many patients often seek out non-traditional help in finding relief. One such option are cannabinoids, which offer a natural means of reducing nausea, pain, and anxiety without causing unwanted side effects such as intoxication. Be sure to do your homework first, and speak with your medical practitioner, to ensure the decision is the correct one for you.
It’s a human trait to look ahead and worry about things we can’t control; cancer patients are no different than anyone else. My father found peace by seeking mindfulness—remaining focused on the present rather than stressing about the future. Counseling helped him achieve this mindset and aided him in his efforts to deal with the pain and nausea his treatment routine caused. If the concept of mindfulness is difficult to embrace, try simple activities that can help bring you back into the moment, like focusing on your breathing instead of allowing your thoughts to race out of control.
As soon as word got around that my father’s diagnosis was terminal, we began to receive visitors by the dozens. An artist and an educator, he’d made a great many friends over the years, and each one wanted to pay their respects and wish him well. Between the demands of playing host, going through treatment and trying to remain physically active, he would get very tired and had to find ways to slow down and relax. He benefited from indulging in simple things that made him happy. Thankfully, he was still able to do woodworking, a much-loved hobby, which brought him hours of enjoyment and satisfaction.
It can be easy to dismiss self-care and spirituality as trivialities when one is diagnosed with cancer. After all, it’s a frightening experience that severely tests the individual’s psychological and emotional strength. Maintaining a philosophical perspective and embracing self-care can help you marshal your inner resources at a time when you need them most.
Scott Sanders created CancerWell.org as a way to support those who have been affected by cancer.