05/09/13 Reflecting back over the past couple of weeks on the tragic events in Boston and the deadly explosion in Texas, the strength and kindness of humanity showed resilience that I don’t think the U.S. has seen since the aftermath of September 11th. Millions of people came together across the country, showing their faith and offering thoughts and prayers to both parts of the country. The messages of “We Are Boston,” “We Are West,” and “We Are One,” resounded loud and clear. It is never more clear than in times of uncertainty and turmoil, that the human race can come together to show support and courage.
Just as these tragedies occurred, I was invited to speak at the 62nd observance of the National Day of Prayer (NDP) in my birth town community of Plymouth, Indiana. As I thought about what I would speak about, I realized that the uniting of the millions of people in times of tragedy is very similar to what happens to the relationship between a person and their religion upon a cancer diagnosis. The past few weeks have seen millions of people offer prayers for the people in Boston and West, Texas, just as prayers and thoughts are offered for a loved one with cancer. It makes sense that in times of turmoil, many people turn to God. Sometimes placing faith in someone or something else’s hands is one of the hardest things we can do in trying times. But it gives hope.
In times of a crises or a cancer diagnosis, there is a loss of control. We can’t change the diagnosis, the treatment, or the side effects. We always ask questions of why – Why me? Why now? To explain life’s events, many tell themselves that “there is a reason for everything.” Putting one’s faith in something or someone offers comfort and hope for what we can’t explain, something we don’t yet have the answer for. Turning to God in prayer often provides a reason and comfort to explain away the loss of control that we feel.
A cancer diagnosis often hands people a reason to turn to prayer. For many people, spirituality has a way of calming the spirit and providing answers. Finding solace is different for everyone, sometimes it’s found in your family and friends, in your favorite book, or through prayer. Whatever provides that feeling of comfort during a difficult time is both precious and healing.
Without that place of solace and comfort, it is entirely too easy to let the hurtful side of life in. Sometimes it’s hard to find the upside of situations, but maintaining a brighter mindset is just as critical to overcoming grief and a cancer diagnosis as treatment is. While there may be no medical affirmation that prayer and keeping a positive mindset affects a cancer treatment, I’ve learned over the years that half the battle for any situation is positive thinking.
So whether it is a national catastrophe, dealing with your own personal crisis or the anticipation of “a better way” for treating cancer – my opinion is to do what you able to do and then cast your worries off with a prayer. What can it hurt?
MARK A. NEIDIG SR. is executive director of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation (MNeidig@Kanzius.org).