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Finding Deeper Meaning to Life After Cancer Diagnosis

A recent online survey of people living with lung cancer and their caregivers revealed intriguing insight about a person’s faith or spirituality after they were diagnosed with lung cancer.

While some people might expect that a lung cancer diagnosis could cause some to lose their faith, in fact, according to Health Union’s Lung Cancer In America survey, half of the 673 patient respondents said they became more spiritual following their diagnosis.

Only 4 percent of respondents surveyed indicated that they were less spiritual after their diagnosis.

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Community Poll

Has your faith or spirituality changed since your or a loved one's lung cancer diagnosis?

My path to spiritual awakening

This topic reminds me of my own spiritual path before and after my diagnosis. I recently celebrated a spiritual milestone and shared my story about how God transformed my life 40 years ago.

I had a spiritual awakening on January 15, 1979. Prior to that day, I identified as an atheist. It’s not that I necessarily had anything against God; I simply did not believe in Him. My life and everything in it changed that cold winter’s day in 1979.

It was the death of my infant son that lead to my spiritual awakening. My heart was broken and there was no comfort from the unbearable pain -- without God. I had been honest in my heart when I denied the existence of God, and I had to be honest with myself when He met me, right where I was. But it’s really not such a mystery. What I lacked was love -- real love. And after all, God is love. Who doesn’t believe in love?

I am not embarrassed to discuss my faith. On the contrary. There is nothing I enjoy more. However, I have learned over the decades since my conversion that there is a time to share my faith and a time to be silent.

Facing mortality while facing lung cancer

Following my lung cancer diagnosis, my faith increased deeply. Don’t misunderstand. As I learned a few basic facts about lung cancer, I sincerely questioned the authenticity of my faith. I had to be honest with myself and search my heart. When lung cancer comes knocking, we must question our faith -- not necessarily as unbelievers -- but as taking stock, as if preparing for a journey. These are the questions I asked myself:

  • Do I truly believe?
  • Am I ready to go?
  • If my life were to end today, do I have peace about eternity?

My answer to all these questions: Absolutely!

I came to the conclusion that, yes, I believe even more now than I did the day of my conversion. I have literally no doubt...none whatsoever. I have nothing but peace regarding eternal life. It was as if I entered a new dimension...one that I cannot “unenter.” I have crossed a threshold. In a sense, faced with the inevitability of my own mortality, I have passed from life to death.

Confronting my fears

And, yet, I live. I live with the struggles common to all. I live with the knowledge that this life, this world, is not the end, nor is it all that great. In truth, I live in the hope of a better life, in a better world. I live because I do not want to do anything to shortchange myself in that next life. I live because it is not my time to die.

Make no mistake. I am not courageous about dying. But, as God is my witness, there is nothing I look forward to more. I also dread it. Not the dying part. That will be as easy as slipping off a coat.

No, what I dread is the suffering. I am a coward regarding that. I am afraid of losing my faculties. I dread the thought of my loved ones having to clean my bottom or feed me. Perhaps God will spare them (and me) of that.

But we never know, do we?

Read Part II of Finding Deeper Meaning to Life After Cancer Diagnosis.

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