Restoration from Cancer
How can a cancer survivor regain what they lost on their cancer journey?
When it comes to finding restoration from cancer, people often think that much of what is lost can never be recovered. However, that is not always the case.
What exactly is restoration? Restoration means experiencing renewal or returning something to a former or unimpaired condition.
Everybody loves a good story of restoration like when someone takes a dilapidated or broken home and fixes it up and gives it new life. That’s why shows like Fixer Upper and Extreme Home Makeover are so popular.
To be realistic, some losses in this life are not recoverable, and it is appropriate to grieve these. For more on this topic, see Dealing with Loss from Cancer (coming soon).
Yet, the desire for restoration remains strong, even for those with difficult or incurable diagnoses.
Restoration is a concept that is related to healing, but a little different. Not everyone with cancer will find “healing,” or a complete return of wellness to his or her body, but it is possible for anyone to experience some restoration from cancer.
That’s what this article is about.
There are four different categories of restoration: physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. And here is a brief overview of how a person can seek restoration in each.
Cancer takes a toll on the body. It can cause pain and fatigue, which can range from minor to severe.
Even more so than the cancer itself, cancer treatment can damage the body leaving side effects in its wake, some temporary and some permanent.
Even so, a person with cancer wants to recover from the effects as much as possible. And while not everyone will find complete healing from the disease, it is good and right to try to find as much physical restoration from cancer as possible.
Along with seeking treatment from medical professionals, there are more steps you can take, too. Here are six ways that you can be a healthy cancer survivor from the National Cancer Institute. These are helpful, no matter what phase of your cancer journey you are in.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Get recommended cancer screenings.
- Create a survivorship care plan.
- Take care of your emotional health (read on for more on this point).
The emotional challenges of the cancer journey can be some of the most devastating to deal with.
The emotional and physical health connection
Most of us would agree there is a direct correlation between mental, emotional and physical health. As this quote attests:
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Many people facing cancer, along with caregivers and family, know the feeling of a “crushed spirit” all too well. They experience deep emotional pain which can include fear, sadness and a loss of hope.
And this loss of hope may be the biggest blow of all.
Why hope is so important
I can say from personal experience, losing hope is the worst. Without hope, I felt like I was dead before I was actually dead. When I regained hope, it changed everything. I began to live again.
You can hear more about my journey in the Pathway to Hope, a 7-day email series about hope.
Hope is the desire and expectation for a good outcome, for a better tomorrow. And when you lose this, it’s like all the air suddenly goes out of your tires. It can feel difficult to breathe, to move even.
You lose all expectation for good and it can even steal your will to live. It’s like all of the vibrancy and zest has been drained from you, like a colorful sunset suddenly changed into black and white.
At Hope Has Arrived, we think a lot about hope. Our goal is to help people find hope, strength and peace against cancer. We especially we want people to find hope, which we believe is the critical virtue of the cancer journey, the anchor on which all other virtues rest.
We believe hope is the greatest emotional need of all cancer patients—along with their caregivers, family and friends. And when a person finds hope, a foundational need is met, and they are well on their way to experiencing as much restoration as possible.
More emotional help
We realize that we may have just touched the surface of the emotional needs on the cancer journey. Indeed, they are deep waters. For more help, we urge you to seek a local cancer support group or a licensed counselor or therapist.
We would also like to invite you to join our online group, the Hope Has Arrived Prayer and Support Group. It is private, relatively small and welcoming for new members.
Relational changes during the cancer journey can be disappointing and jolting, adding pain and sadness to the pain already felt.
In a perfect world, when someone experiences something as traumatizing as a cancer diagnosis, all your friends and family would rally around you and support you in exactly the way you want to be supported.
This does not always happen.
There are many reasons. For one, people who are in a crisis don’t even always know how they want to be helped. Some want all of the people they know to press in, others would rather be left alone. It can be very challenging for people to know how to help or what to do.
Not only that, people are busy and their ability to help is limited. They have their own problems to deal with. Some people are scared to get involved with another person’s crisis because they simply don’t want to derail their own happiness, or perhaps because they don’t know what to say. They fear the uncertainty of saying the wrong thing.
For more on the topic, see What to Say to Someone Who Has Cancer and What Not to Say to Someone with Cancer.
The pain of relational distance
During a crisis, even family or close friends may pull away.
Whether intended or not, this can be devastating for those dealing with cancer.
Something I’ve often heard cancer patients say is that “they just don’t understand what I am going through.” And perhaps that is true. How can any of us really know what it is like to walk in other person’s shoes?
Caregivers also endure relational challenges from the cancer journey.
Indeed, the relationship dynamics of cancer can be a tricky trail to navigate for all people involved.
Tips for relational restoration
Regardless of if you are a patient, caregiver or friend or family member, here are some suggestions for how to find relational restoration on your cancer journey:
- Believe the best about people.
- Forgive people when they let you down.
- Always seek the good of others, never try to hurt them back or get even.
- Be willing to wait on relationships…give people time and space to respond.
- Always be quick to show love to people and tell them how much they mean to you.
For further reading, we also recommend you check out Every Day is a Gift, a cancer survivor’s practical advice for finding hope and joy in every day.
All of the categories previously listed are critically important.
But this one even more so. The reason is we are spiritual beings on a spiritual journey. This was true long before experiencing a health crisis.
As the civil rights leader Howard Thurman once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Evidence that belief helps cancer
Not surprisingly, an overwhelming amount of cancer patients find help through their spiritual beliefs.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of cancer patients say they pray for their health. A recent study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests a link between religious or spiritual beliefs and better physical health reported among patients with cancer.
What does it mean to be spiritual? Part of our life exists beyond just the physical and what we can see. There is a part of us, our soul and spirit, that will live long after our bodies wear out, even after death.
Spiritually, we were created to have a relationship with God.
As the philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, we all have a “God shaped hole,” —a place inside of our hearts that only God can fill.
The absence of this relationship erodes our wellbeing more than we can realize, because in the deepest parts of our souls, we were designed to know and be loved by the one who created all we see.
This relationship is designed to be healing and life-giving, providing strength and hope in good times, and especially during the worst of times. Indeed, Jesus (God’s son) said, “I have come so that they might have life and have it to the full.”
The spiritual disconnect
We were made to connect with God and find life from him, but due to a variety of factors, we have all gone our own way and rejected God, through active rebellion or passive indifference.
This rejection, whether intentional or not, has created a Grand Canyon-sized gap between us and God. We stand on one side; he is on the other.
The good news is there is a way to bridge this gap.
While we may not be able to experience perfect physical, emotional or relational restoration, we can have perfect spiritual restoration.
Check out these words, which reveal God’s heart for people:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1 Peter 5:10 ESV).”
Steps to spiritual restoration
You can be restored in your relationship with God right now. Perhaps this prayer expresses the desire of your heart:
“God, I know you have created me as a spiritual being and this is a vital part of who I am. Forgive me for not seeking you, ignoring you or even rejecting you. Today, I ask you to be in my life and help me. Please come and give me spiritual restoration. I also ask that you give me physical, emotional and relational restoration, too. Thank you. Amen.”
It’s not so much the words that are important, but the attitude of your heart.
Or maybe you already have relationship with God but the pain of what you are going through has caused separation and you have pulled away. Today is a good to seek him again, knowing that he can help you find restoration.
Wherever you are at on your journey, may today be the day you find the restoration you seek.
For more about how to experience spiritual restoration, read Knowing God Personally.
You can also learn more about prayer through Asking God for Help.
I have a question or comment
How to know God’s hope, strength and peace
Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.