What I am posting here is an entry from the Wall Street Journal Health Blog, to which I subscribe (“Searching for Meaning in Terminal Cancer”, by Shirley S. Wang, July 14, 2009). http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/07/14/searching-for-meaning-in-terminal-cancer/ You can find the full text of this article in the regular edition of the paper (wsj.com).
“Celebrity spokespeople like Lance Armstrong and Christina Applegate tout how their positive attitudes helped them deal with their cancer. [Note: in the original article there is a comment that says studies have not borne this out] . But some patients, particularly those with end-stage disease, have a harder time feeling upbeat and finding meaning in their lives.
“Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center Center are looking to help patients with later-stage cancer to do just that — achieve a sense of meaning and purpose to their lives even while facing their death, the WSJ reports.
“Sloan-Kettering psychiatrist William Breitbart developed the program, which is currently being examined in a research study. It’s based in part on the writings of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived an Auschwitz concentration camp believing that a meaningful life can help people endure suffering.
“The eight-week long program attempts to help patients reconnect with old sources of meaning in life — from work to romantic relationships — as well as to find meaning in new ways. Patients reminisce about significant events from the past, resolve issues from their past and figure out what meaning they’ve found and want to pass on to others.
“The idea appears be to catching on and is being explored internationally. Hospitals in Italy, Denmark, Germany and Argentina are carrying out similar programs to Breitbart’s, notes the WSJ.
“’You are not dying of cancer—you are living with cancer until you pass. You can make it meaningful, even if all you can do is lie in bed,’ Shannon Poppito, a clinical psychologist who leads many of the sessions at Sloan Kettering, told the WSJ.”