Breast cancer and spirtuality

I recently came across a summary of a 2005 study, “Evaulation of the effectiveness of an Intervention Group to meet the identified spiritual needs of breast cancer patients” by Pat Hargadon, Avon Breast Cancer Nurse Counsellor at Arc Cancer Support Centre, Eccles St, Dublin and Aiveen Mullally, MA Spirituality and Culture. The study notes that while a woman’s physical and psychological needs are recognised during treatment for breast cancer, their spiritual needs are seldom acknowledged.

The study defined spirituality as “the power within the individual giving meaning, purpose and fulfillment to life, suffering and death; the individual’s “will to live”; the individual’s belief and faith in self, others and a power “beyond self”/God” (Renetzky, 1979).

The results of a 2004 pilot study conducted at Arc identified the spiritual needs of women with a diagnosis of breast cancer as follows:

  • Finding sense of purpose/meaning
  • Facing mortality
  • “Why me?”
  • Living with uncertainty
  • Maintaining hope
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Religious issues

The Arc spirituality workshops drew on the writings of Carl Jung, Victor Frankl, Sogyal Rinpoche, Pat Cane and MA research by Aiveen Mullally and covered topics ranging from tai’chi, mind, body and spirit awareness, touch thearapies,  creative expression to relaxation and visualisation, mindfulness and integration of eastern and western philosophy.

The provision and facilitation of these workshops highlight for me the key role that cancer support centres play in providing practical and emotional support on the journey towards recovery.

If you are interested in this topic of cancer and spirituality, please also check out my recent post on the upcoming Spiritual Care Conference due to take place in April 2009 in Killarney.

Compassion and Presence: Spiritual Care for the Living and Dying