BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment is without a doubt challenging. Many patients say spirituality can be a tremendous help to getting them through the ordeal.
Studies have shown that seriously ill patients who turn to faith in a higher power benefit in many ways. Prayer has been found to relieve stress and offer comfort and healing at any stage of disease.
The Pastoral Care Team at Roswell Park Cancer Institute consists of four full-time clergy members of different faiths, plus support from over 30 religious traditions in the community. They say most people tend to either revert back to a religious tradition of their youth, or look to adopt one for the first time as a way to cope with a life threatening diagnosis, and to help put what's happening to them into perspective.
"I think most people want to have some sort of resolution with their faith. They want someone to tell them that there is an afterlife, that they didn't do anything in the way they lived their life to cause what's happening to them," said Rev Cathy Dempesy, and Episcopal Minister.
"Some individuals want to talk about those existential questions: What is my purpose in life? Why is this happening to me? Suffering? Is there an afterlife? I think anybody who is told they have cancer, their immortality is right in front of them," said Dr. Beth Lenegan, Director of Pastoral Care at Roswell.
Many hospitals, like Roswell Park have clergy on staff who can meet a patient where ever they are on their spiritual journey and help guide them as they deal with issues of fear, grief, loss, regret and even anger.
Hospital chaplains provide spiritual care to all people regardless of their religious affiliation and you don't have to belong to any faith tradition to request a chaplain.