While reporting my feature story on the role of spirituality in cancer care for the summer issue of Cancer Today, I was struck—yet again—by how fortunate I am to do the work that I do. As a freelance writer, I sometimes feel like I never left grad school: days filled with research and reporting; late nights meeting deadlines; a blank page, waiting; a half-empty cup of coffee close at hand. It’s not a high-paying tech gig. But the people I talk to, and the topics I get to write about, make it all worthwhile.
This was especially true of the chaplains I interviewed about integrating spiritual health into medical care. I had thought of chaplains as ministers of war, sent to hear final confessions and administer a fallen soldier’s last rights. But as I learned, and as many already know, off the battlefield and beyond the movies, the role that a chaplain can play in helping people who are sick or dying—and their loved ones—is vastly more expansive, a change increasingly evident in cancer care.
Halfway through my reporting, my partner began providing support for a cousin who had been in the hospital for more than a week, bottoming out of his addiction and battling sepsis, which had developed following surgery for his Crohn’s disease. I suggested that he have the nurse contact a chaplain. Within a half hour, the chaplain on call that day was by his side.
Like our cousin, the chaplain was Jewish. Like him, she had Crohn’s disease. And, like him, she was familiar with addiction; she had been clean and sober for decades. I was sitting at my desk when my partner relayed the series of coincidences. The only thing my non-religious self could think to say was: “God works in mysterious ways.”
I turned back to the blinking cursor. I was on deadline.
Here’s the story: A New Look at Spirituality.