Our Search for Religion and Spirituality
New Agers are returning to church -- but keeping meditation and yoga classes on their schedules.
A Need for Hope continued...
In his book, he recalls one of his first patients -- a young
woman with breast cancer. "She had a breast mass the size of a walnut. I
come from a traditional Jewish background; I thought would befriend her, find
out how a smart young woman could allow a tumor grow to this size without
seeking medical attention."
Her story was more complicated than Groopman expected. "She
was in an unhappy arranged marriage, having an affair with her boss -- who she
had no illusion loved her -- but it was the only way to escape this marriage.
Her interpretation of her breast cancer was that it was a punishment from
"I was completely in over my head," he says. "With
a mixture of guilt and shame, I retreated from her. The senior surgeon
convinced her to be treated. But so much was her shame, ultimately, her breast
cancer led to her death."
When such lack of hope is explored, other feelings surface.
"She felt she had no control over her world, none of her actions would make
a difference," Groopman explains. "It was a profound lesson about hope
and lack of hope, about having hope you can reach a better future, that the
choices you make, the path you take can make a difference."
"Crisis raises complex questions," he tells WebMD. He
remembers another patient, a young boy with cancer, who then got HIV from a
blood transfusion and died of AIDS. "His parents kept asking, 'How could
God allow this?' I don't think there is an answer to that."
By making a commitment to helping children who were ill, that
family found their own way to cope, says Groopman. It's more evidence that
helping others is the root of religion and spirituality.
Published April 8, 2004.