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Has faith or spirituality helped you through prostate cancer?

  1. Has faith or spirituality helped you through prostate cancer?
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    I noticed that this question had been posed more than two years ago but never answered. I find this a little strange given that cancer is such a major event in our lives, and in the lives of our families. If ever there is a time when tranquility and rationality is needed to help us manage worry, stress, fear, and ambiguity surely this is it.
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    With that in mind I thought I would pen a few thoughts that have helped me, not just with prostate cancer, but with life itself. But first I want to say that I believe faith and spirituality are uniquely personal. In no way am I trying to impose my beliefs on others,
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    FIRST, some background:
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    My nuanced view of life and the universe doesn’t fit with the usual religions - I am agnostic, a spiritual humanist, a Secular Buddhist, with a broad interest in the overlap of Buddhism and science. By 'spiritual' I mean those qualities of the human spirit – such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony – which bring happiness to both self and others
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    I believe that FAITH must be built on empirical evidence and logic, drawing inspiration from religious and secular sources alike. Faith only deepens when it is tested - tranquility and rationality are its cornerstones.
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    For me, SPIRITUALITY is the quality of being concerned with our intellect, emotions, fears, and passions, as opposed to material or physical things. The Dalai Lama articulates that the purpose of spirituality in a secular world is that of a moral compass that tempers the destructive emotions that so often accompany our modern materialism
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    SECOND, thoughts on affliction:
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    Isaiah 48:10 says “I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction”. The meaning of this verse makes it clear that pain and suffering have a way of bringing our strengths to the surface. There is no better example of this than that of Helen Keller, the American author, advocate, activist, and lecturer, who lost her sight and hearing after a bout of illness at the age of nineteen months. She said “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships”.
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    Siddhartha Gotoma, Buddha, explained that life is full of suffering and unsatisfactoriness, arising from delusion, anger and desire, but that there is an ending, a freedom from it, which is gained by living ethically, with mental discipline, and by cultivating wisdom. Similarly, John 16:33 says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”.
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    My FAITH helps me recognize that there will always be problems, but that there are mindsets, lifestyles, attitudes and tools that I can use to overcome them. Suffering and its unwholesome causes are not to be escaped but to be confronted—and eventually transformed into wisdom and compassion.
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    THIRD, thoughts on impermanence:
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    Concerning the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in 1915, the physicist Arthur Eddington wrote, "The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of nature". Steven Pinker, the Canadian-American cognitive psychologist and author, says “Why the awe for the Second Law? I believe that it defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order”.
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    And that is exactly the situation we are facing with prostate cancer. Cancer is randomness, a disorder in our system, derived from a genetic mutation as our cells divide. Modern medicine, prostatectomies, radiation, and other therapies, push back against the ravages of entropy providing respite, a measure of beneficial order, even if only temporarily.
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    I have FAITH that change is inevitable, everything changes. Impermanence is inescapable. To quote Janes Clear, “It is nobody's fault that life has problems. It is simply a law of probability. There are many disordered states and few ordered ones. Given the odds against us, what is remarkable is not that life has problems, but that we can solve them at all”.
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    Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. I have FAITH that as mindfulness develops, resentment of change, dislike of unpleasant experiences, greed for the pleasant, and the focus on selfhood, will be replaced by a deeper awareness of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.
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    FOURTH, in summary:
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    I have FAITH that peace is possible only when the mind is free of delusive expectations.
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    Concerning cancer, I harbor no delusions: At the macro level I know that 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes. At the personal level, having had a robotic prostatectomy with a T3b, N0, M0 pathology, I know that I have a 35% lifetime chance of recurrence.
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    I take to heart the words of the late Congressman, John Lewis: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.”
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    With or without the reference to a higher power, I place SPIRITUAL stock in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: [God], grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
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    And, to those who may read this, I pray that you live your lives free of delusive expectations, to accept with equanimity the challenges that life brings, to dwell not on what’s already done or dream of what might be, but to concentrate on the present, to flourish in the here and now. This I believe is the path to peace and happiness.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts on the subject. I really appreciated this read and your perspective. Cheers, wishing you the best. -Samuel, Team Member

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