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Self-care and Spiritual Wellness Are Vital for Cancer Patients

April 17, 2019
by Scott Sanders

Over 600,000 people in the United States died from cancer in 2017, according to the National Cancer Institute. And 1,688,780 new cases were documented the same year. That makes cancer the second-most prevalent medical ailment in the country, after only heart disease. Perhaps most startlingly, the percentage of deaths of people with cancer is 22.5 percent. Practically, the same number for heart disease at 23.4 percent.

To properly diagnose cancer, understand its complexities, and undergo treatment, you should consult an oncologist. But here are some self-care and spiritual wellness measures to help balance your mind and perspective after you’ve been diagnosed.


Taking care of yourself is essential to staying healthy when you have cancer. Stick to a diet of wholesome foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fish to help boost your immune system. And make sure to get enough sleep, which restores our memory, cleanses our system of toxins and regulates our level of cortisol, considered to be the “stress hormone.” One of the effects of a debilitating disease is that your life gets jolted off-balance. So keep doing what you love, whether that’s knitting, reading, taking walks, or spending time around loved ones. On that note, reach out to friends and family about your condition. Assembling a support network is one of the most positive things that you can do. You might not be able to control the complexities of your condition, but you can help soothe your body while it’s going through cancer.

What’s more, taking care of your surroundings can actually make you healthier while easing overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety. A cluttered home, for example, can house a variety of irritants, pollutants, and allergens like dust and mold. So, to help make your living environment better suited to your condition, clear out the things you don’t need and hire a maid service to help get things spick and span. Also, changing out your air filters on a regular basis can go a long way toward making the air inside your home breathable and safe. Filters with a high MERV rating can trap more particles, and companies such as Lennox offer a wide range of options that suit different needs.

Spiritual Wellness

Make no mistake: The most effective measure of treating cancer is professional medical attention. Many people, though, have pondered whether spiritually helps people through a cancer diagnosis. Some studies indicate that spiritual belief may be linked to positive effects on cancer patients’ emotional and social well-being.

Other studies have shown that a sense of spiritual wellness increases patients’ positive outlook and helps soothe their anxiety and depression. Moreover, being part of a church, mosque, synagogue or other religious institution can bring with it a built-in network that puts you around people who are sympathetic.

Addiction Prevention and Safe Use of Opioids

Many patients who are diagnosed with cancer soon wrestle with another condition: opioid addiction. Over 30 years ago, medical research was published arguing that the rates of opioid addiction were low among patients who had been hospitalized. Starting in the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies marketed opioid medicine for pain alleviation. In turn, that led to a spike in opioid addictions among cancer patients.

Stats from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) state that from 1999-2015, more than 183,000 people died from an overdose to prescription opioids (especially methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone). By some estimates, one out of 10 patients who undergo surgery for cancer become dependent on opioids afterward.

Lifestyle tips like these are integral to patients staying sane and focused. But they will not stave off potential opioid addiction, or medicate cancer and its symptoms. For that, the expertise of an oncologist is irreplaceable. Still, cancer patients should observe self-care habits that dovetail with spiritual wellness. While that sounds abstract, it mostly involves sleeping enough, eating nutritionally and being around helpful people who can support you as you battle through the worst throes of cancer and toward recovery.