Spirituality in Medicine: A Study on Writing the Autobiography to Promote Emotional Healing for Cancer Patients
Modern day methods of medical practice and patient care show an incredible advance in technology and success since even one hundred years ago. With the coming of the Age of Enlightenment and an increasing amount of followers in scientific thought, answers to questions of science are unveiled through new machines, research and experiments. Although society has progressed greatly in the care and treatment of illnesses, along the way, "unscientific" patient care has received less and less attention. With such an emphasis on surgery, medicine, and other treatments, some medical personnel have begun to consider their patients not as individual souls, but as mechanical bodies that need to be "fixed". The aspects of human life, including religion and spirituality, that used to be considered central to healing have been set aside as unreliable in the context of medicine. Unlike the scientific method's ability to physically prove some of life's mysteries, blind faith has no such tactic for verifying a God or spiritual phenomena. Nevertheless, spirituality is still an important part of human life; the modern concepts of medicine need to reintegrate spiritual and emotional healing. One of the ways in which society can bring spiritual and emotional healing into the curriculum of medicine is by creating therapy groups focused on writing the autobiography. Through storytelling, discussion, and a deep analysis of what life experiences really teach them, patients can address the missing aspects of medicine. What medicine does not tell us are the answers to all of the questions we ask about life when we are faced with an illness. One way we can try to answer those questions for ourselves is by going back into our individual histories to discover what we really find important in life that gives it meaning. Medicine may be able to repair our bodies, but it is our souls that need more thought and attention through other methods of therapy. Taking medicine definitely helps patients, but it is a very passive form of healing. By introducing programs centered on creative expression, patients will initiate self-led emotionally curative methods that can sustain with or without the help of a doctor. In an internship with the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, I put this theory to test by creating a writing curriculum for a pilot group of women who either have cancer or are cancer survivors. In a few sessions, we were able to write and identify common life themes that give life a great importance. These themes exhibit the morals, values, and beliefs that are contained in the experiences of life and can be referred to as common mythologies. I call them mythologies because, although each individual's story may differ in plot, setting or character, they universally speak to a collective group of people about life beliefs that span the generations. What we value in life affects who we are, how we deal with our ups and downs, and also how we come to terms with illness and the possibility of death. This project is a collective analysis of modern medicine and why spiritual healing is important in the realm of medicine. I will begin by providing a research overview on the topics of the Age of Enlightenment and modern medical curricula in America. Second, I will describe my internship and the processes by which the writing sessions were organized and carried out. Third, I will evaluate how some of the journal entries provided by the patients reveal common mythologies on the notable aspects of life.