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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.

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • marina
    9 months ago

    Is it possible while you deeply believe not to be ready to go and not having peace over eternity? Is your mood influenced by thoughts regarding your attachments to loved ones and how you will have to let go of it all ? Do your new religious beliefs help you deal with these issues? How long have you been fighting with lung cancer and if I may ask what is your prognosis now. I pray and hope that all goes well with you.

  • dustyjoy
    9 months ago

    Hi Marina, of course, it’s possible to be a strong believer and not be ready to go. A very god reason for that is because it is not your time to go. Regarding not having peace over eternity, that can also be tricky because we don’t really know exactly what eternity will look like, do we. That’s where faith comes in. We hope the the best and believe eternity will be better. We not only believe because we want it to be that way but because the Lord told us so. Leaving loved ones will be the most difficult part…not that it’s difficult for me to leave but because I know my loved ones will grieve for me and I will not be here to comfort them. Their pain is what makes it hard to leave them. But I have faith that they will be comforted by the Holy Spirit, the greatest Comforter. I confess it would be much more difficult if my children were small or still at home. All my children are grown. Even my grandchildren are nearly grown. (My youngest turns 16 in a few months.) About my fight with lung cancer, my prognosis is excellent. I was diagnosed in 2005 with early stage lung cancer. My doctor said I am cured, after surgery and chemo. I was 51 years old when I was diagnosed and I will be 65 in September. My fight with lung cancer has taken a different direction. I fight for others now. I started a nonprofit 10 years ago. We host monthly lung cancer support groups in five cities. We also provide gift bags for new lung cancer patients to about 20 cancer centers. I hope that answers all your questions but if not please feel free to reach out to ask more. I hope and pray you are well or in the road to recovery.

  • marina
    9 months ago

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, really appreciate it and I would like to wish you the very best in your life. My situation is different, I am just a beginner ..I was diagnosed with stage IV small cell lung cancer. It was operable and had my surgery last November. Since then I am NED and doctors do not want to suggest any further treatment due to my chronic condition with ITP; they would like just to do follow ups. I have no idea as how to handle the news, the fear of the unknown, the pessimistic thoughts , the joy over the new diagnosis and all other associated feelings regarding my new health status. I will keep your story as an inspiration and hope for the future. Thank you very much!

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