Life changes in many ways when you or a loved one develops cancer. You might find yourself turning to your spiritual side more often to help you to cope. Or, you may begin to question your faith. Both of these reactions are normal as you try to re-orient your life during a time of crisis. It is important to remember that you are not alone at this time. Many people have taken this spiritual journey before you.

Everyone holds certain beliefs and values about what makes life worthwhile.

Many people have experienced moments when they have felt connected to a deeper meaning or reality — when you feel close to nature, look into the face of a loved one, or enter a house of worship and sense a greater power.

You  may be in the process of strengthening or re-evaluating your spiritual beliefs, or this may all be new to  you. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Take time regularly to meditate or pray. This can bring a sense of calm and stability during difficult times.
  2. Read spiritual writings such as the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Psalms, Bhagavad Gita, or other faith-based texts. Delving into sacred texts can put you in touch with ancient traditions of wisdom and give you a sense of connection with a more divine reality. Recently published books on spirituality can also give new insights.
  3. Seek the help of others. You might begin an ongoing discussion with your clergy or counsellor, or join a group for meditation, prayer and support. 
  4. Retreat to spiritual spaces, natural settings, or concerts and museums to cultivate a spiritual sense of peace. The non-denominational chapel at VGH – ‘A Sacred Space’ – is on the first floor of the Centennial Pavilion, near the main entrance.
  5. Keep a journal to express your feelings, thoughts, and memories. It can contribute to your process of self-discovery and spiritual development.

For further information on or referral to spiritual resources, please contact your BMT social worker or the Spiritual Care Department of Vancouver General Hospital.

Some of this information is cited with permission from CANCERCare, an American national nonprofit organization. For more information, visit the CANCERCare web site, call 1-800-813-HOPE (1-800-813-4673) or email

How to Take Good Care of Yourself

Having a “relationship” with yourself may seem like a strange idea. However, it is during this difficult time that it is even more important to remember to take good care of yourself. 

There are many things you can do to promote good self care during your treatment and recovery. Here are some suggestions.

Take Charge
1. Simplify and structure your life and environment. Have a care routine. Scheduling keeps everyone on track.
2. The illness does not always have to take centre stage. Make an active choice to take charge of your life.
3. Arm yourself with as much information as you can about the disease and treatment. Knowledge is empowering.
4. Get your financial affairs in order.

1. Get enough sleep (at least 6 hours per night) and be sure to take little breaks during the day, even if just a few minutes to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.
2. It comes down to not over functioning. Share the load as much as each person is able.

1. Talking – don’t be afraid to open up to friends and family members, most want to be there for you and many don’t know how start the conversation
2. Journaling – this is a form of communication as well, and many people find it helpful to write down their thoughts, feelings and ideas.
3. Share your needs in a respectful way with your loved one.

Build a Support Network
1. Become familiar with the resources in your community, such as volunteer drivers, meal delivery programs, support groups and counsellors. Your Leukemia/BMT social worker can provide you with details and contact information.
2. Try to develop a support network by making connections and forging relationships with others who are going through similar situations; it is helpful to know that you are not alone.
3. Avoid isolation.

Know the Signs of Burnout & Depression
1. Know when your stress is manageable and when you need to seek out more professional help.
2. Develop an awareness of the physical symptoms related to stress. How does your body react to stress?
3. Don’t put off seeking help from professionals when you need it.

Practice Stress Management & Relaxation Techniques
1. Try techniques such as meditation, relaxation breathing, and guided imagery. Classes and support groups in these techniques are offered through the BC Cancer Agency and the Centre for Integrated Healing. These techniques are good for both patients and caregivers.
2. Physical exercise is a stress reliever. A ten minute walk can do wonders.
3. Attend a support group. You will discover that you are not alone in this experience, and you will gain invaluable insights and suggestions from others.

~ Self-care is not a luxury; it is a necessity! ~

Tips from Former Patients
  • Give yourself permission to feel anxious and stressed about whatever it is that is bothering you. At the same time, try to keep incidents in perspective, and not overreact to small setbacks or minor crises. These are all to be expected when dealing with a serious illness.
  • If you have an anxiety attack, try to think about what in particular may have set it off. If you cannot pinpoint it, try to let it go and move on.
  • Try to become aware of your body’s symptoms. Don’t let them scare you, let them talk to you.
  • Listen very closely to your “self-talk”. Are you filling yourself with negative thoughts about a certain situation? What can you say to yourself that will be more comforting?
  • Listen to what those around you are saying. Are you consistently around negative people who want to drag you down with them? If so, how can you change your reaction to their negativity so you will be less affected by it?
  • Do not overwhelm yourself with high expectations and “should haves.” Set realistic goals regarding what and how much you are able to do. Remember that you are doing the best you can, and making the best decisions you can with the information that you are given.
  • Recognize that role changes are difficult to negotiate in the best of circumstances. Do not be hard on yourself when you experience impatience, frustration, sadness, or anger.
  • Give yourself positive reinforcements for even the smallest accomplishments. Give yourself frequent praise and rewards for your patience and endurance.
  • Be willing to walk away from difficult situations to calm down. Try a new approach later.
  • Take one day at a time. Try not to worry about what might happen, as there will always be unknowns on your journey.
  • Use your sense of humour! It relieves stress and can be a positive emotional release.