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Survivors often express the need to understand what having had cancer means to their lives now. In fact, many find that cancer causes them to look at life in new ways. They may reflect on spirituality, the purpose of life, and what they value most.
Others report feeling lucky or "blessed" to have survived treatment and take new joy in each day. For some, the meaning of their illness comes out only after they have been living with cancer for a long time; for others, the meaning changes over time. It also is common to view the cancer experience both negatively and positively at the same time. Often, people make changes in their lives to reflect what matters most to them now. You might spend more time with your loved ones, place less focus on your job, or enjoy the pleasures of nature. You also might find that going through a crisis like cancer gives you new power and pride. "I feel good that I've found ways to cope," one colon cancer survivor said. "I also feel better able to handle any future problems that might come up. I have new skills, and I now know I have strength."
Cancer survivors often report that they look at their faith or their spirituality in a new way. For some, it may get stronger or seem more vital. Others may question their faith and wonder about the meaning of life. A new focus on the present is common, too. "I used to be goal-oriented, knowing what I was doing and what I intended to achieve during a given period," one prostate cancer survivor explained. "And now that is history; I take it day by day."
How do you find new meaning in your life after cancer? Here are some ideas that have worked for other cancer survivors.
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Dealing with a serious illness can affect one's spiritual outlook, whether or not one feels connected to traditional religious beliefs. After treatment, you and your loved ones may struggle to understand why cancer has entered your lives. You may wonder why you have to endure such a trial in your life.
At the same time, many survivors have found that their faith or religion or sense of spirituality is a source of strength as they face life after cancer treatment. Many survivors say that through their faith, they have been able to find meaning in their lives and make sense of their cancer experience. Faith or religion can also be a way for survivors to connect to others in their community who may share similar experiences or outlooks or who can provide support. Many survivors have found that religious gatherings helped them meet new people and find support through a trying time. Studies have also shown that for some, religion can be an important part of both coping with and recovering from cancer.
The way cancer affects one's faith or religion is different for everyone. Some turn away from their religion because they feel it has deserted them. It is common to question one's faith after cancer. These are difficult questions, but for some, seeking answers and searching for personal meaning in spirituality helps them cope.
Here are ways you may find comfort and meaning through your faith or religion:
How can you find faith-based support in your community? Here are some ideas that have helped other cancer survivors:
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Source: U.S. National Cancer Institute, Facing Forward Series: Life After Cancer