How Can Faith-Based Support and Spirituality Help Mesothelioma Patients?

Research demonstrates that faith and spirituality-based values are maintained by many individuals who live in the United States. A recent study from 2019 states that approximately 65 percent of American adults identify with some religion, faith, or spirituality. When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma or other cancer, it can be a difficult time that causes a spiritual crisis or lack of faith. Other cancer patients may begin to seek faith and spirituality-based support to find meaning or purpose in their lives. While it’s not known for sure, studies have shown that faith and spiritual support in receptive patients can have a positive impact on patient outlook, reception to treatment, and prognosis.

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Potential Improvements on Quality of Life

Researchers have observed improvements in some patients who have religious or spiritual support during their illness. Some patients may notice reduced side effects from illness or quality of life. Help can include:

  • Access to a community
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness
  • Sense of hope and optimism
  • Feelings of comfort and inner peace
  • Release from regret
  • Satisfaction with life

Side effects that spiritual support may help manage include:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

It’s important to note, however, that every patient is different and may not experience the same (or any) benefits or relief others might. Numerous variables affect how a person receives religion, faith, or spirituality.

The Connection to Mental and Physical Health

There’s a link to mental health and how it affects the physical condition. This is because the mind tells the body how to react, and when your brain is under stress, it releases chemicals in the body that tell it how to feel and what to do. It does the same when you’re experiencing happy feelings too. Depression has been linked to a 50 percent increase in cancer mortality rate, while on the opposite side, a 2012 Harvard University analysis has shown a link between optimism, cardiovascular health, and reduced rate of disease progression.

Positive support in religion is correlated to better mental health because it can give patients something to believe in when things seem out of control. Religion also provides a community of like-minded individuals the patient can trust to connect with. With spirituality, the person maintains a sense of connection to something bigger than themselves. This can help them look within themselves for strength while feeling less alone. It also helps some people understand the meaning of life while giving them a sense of purpose and an outlet to cope. Talk to your doctor about what complementary options may be appropriate for your specific situation.

Examples of Faith and Spirituality Activities

Activities that involve faith and spirituality can include a range of things. Some things a person can do to practice their faith include:

  • Prayer and worship
  • Yoga, reiki, and meditation
  • Being in nature or with animals
  • Volunteer work
  • Reading and writing
  • Practicing rituals and/or sacraments
  • Spending quality time with family, friends, or religious companions

Since a person’s belief system varies widely based on a range of details, each patient will be affected differently. What works for one person spiritually, may not resonate with another person at all.

Faith and Spirituality Support Options

Mesothelioma patients have many faith-based support options if they know where to look. Some places may offer resources such as bibles, rosaries, or Shabbat candles. Hospitals may also offer chaplain services for patients to further assist with their spiritual needs and requests. Support options available to cancer patients can be:

Worship, and Prayer Services

Several hospitals offer religious services. There’s usually also a chaplain on call to visit patients and assist them with their religious and spiritual needs. A chaplain can help do this by:

  • Listening and offering emotional support
  • Accompanying patients during stages of crisis, depression, or grief
  • Leading worship, communion, anointment, or sharing prayer and sacraments
  • Helping patient reflect while consulting them on ethical questions, concerns, or decisions

If the hospital doesn’t have faith and spirituality-based support available internally, they can provide the location of nearby services that can help.

Chapel, Communion, and Quiet Spaces

In-person worship services are available for patients at some healthcare facilities. While there are usually chapels internally or nearby that a patient can access, some hospitals may also offer small, quiet spaces where the patient can go alone to pray or meditate. Chapels or quiet spaces are usually available 24 hours a day.

Phone or Video Consultations

If the patient desires, they can have phone or video consultations with available chaplains or other spiritual and religious support. The hospital can provide a hotline or phone number for the patient to use to access these consultations.

Television

Religious and spiritual services may also be displayed on a dedicated channel. Ask your hospital if they have this outlet available.

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Spiritual Distress

Faith and spirituality in a mesothelioma patient can also cause crisis or distress. This happens when a person receives a cancer diagnosis and has a difficult time coping with the news. Some people may lose faith and spirituality, and others may shift their religious values. A serious illness like mesothelioma can cause the patient, family members, or caregivers to have questions and doubts about their beliefs, with some who may feel like their God or deity doesn’t care or is punishing them. You don’t have to go through this alone. If you’re experiencing distress in your religion, faith, or spirituality, you can reach out to a chaplain or specialized medical staff member for support.

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