By Debra Chew
I passed a hospital a few days ago and saw a large pink ribbon on the sign in front and pink water rushing forth from the beautiful water fountain at the entrance.
It’s October — National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I have been aware for many years now.
My mother’s diagnosis about six years ago was a shock to both of us. She’d had several suspicious lumps removed from her breasts through the years, all benign. Her surgeon was not concerned. This one turned out to be malignant. Cancer? Not my mom! She was fit, healthy and full of life in her sixties.
My first response was to turn to God. To quote the Psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble.” I prayed and felt more calm and able to comfort my mom, who was understandably fearful.
Research over the past decade on how prayer and spirituality affects breast (and other) cancer patients has shown promising results.
According to a March 19 article on breastcancer.org, entitled Spirituality and Prayer, research indicates that prayer reduces stress and anxiety in cancer patients, promotes a more positive outlook and a stronger will to live.
“The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment looked at studies reported in the Journal of Family Practice over a 10-year time period,” the article stated. “The review found that 83% of the studies done on spirituality found a positive effect on physical health. Another study looked at 12 years of reports in 2 major psychiatric journals. Of the studies that measured spirituality, 92% showed mental health benefits. In research done specifically on women with breast cancer, spirituality and prayer has been associated with less depression and a more positive sense of well-being.”
Like many of the participants in these studies, my mother found that her spirituality was an important factor during her treatment and recovery. She would always say, “I know God is with me wherever I am and whatever I am going through.”
Because of her faith in God, Mom was never tempted to feel depressed about the cancer. She often spoke of the hopelessness in the eyes of some of the other patients she saw on treatment day. But she always felt hopeful. Even when I could tell she was having a tough time, she never complained.
“I have faith in God and I know I will beat this,” she said regularly. And she did.
The year following her surgery and throughout the time she had radiation treatments, I continued to pray for my mom, as did many of her friends and family.
Her faith in God and her spiritual thinking definitely helped her cope with this serious illness, had a positive effect on her recovery, and has played a major role in her remaining cancer-free.
Debra Chew is a Christian Science Practitioner in Knoxville. She is the media and legislative representative for Christian Science for the state of Tennessee.