Glossary
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Breaking News from ASCO
June 09, 2006 – Staff Reports
House Call
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Breast Cancer & MDS
January 09, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Bookshelf
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Follow-Up Care for Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – The National Cancer Institute
Weighing Prevention Versus Cost
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Diagnosing Skin Cancer
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Inherited Syndromes Link Cancers
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Science of Suncreen
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Planning for Death
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Does Heaven Exist?
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To Be or Not To Be: Is That the Right Question?
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Web Exclusive: Caregivers Often Neglect Their Mental Health
June 09, 2006 – The American Cancer Society
Letters from Our Readers
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Tips for Preventing Infection
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June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Fighting Cancer Together
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Running on Empty
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The Blame Game
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People & Places
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A Beautiful Day: The Story of a Son's Loss
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Surf & Turf
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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Saving Your Skin
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Confronting Death
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Glossary
January 16, 2009 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Breaking News from ASCO
June 09, 2006 – Staff Reports
House Call
June 09, 2006 – Jay Thomas, MD, PhD
Breast Cancer & MDS
January 09, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Bookshelf
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Web Exclusive: Follow-Up Care for Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – The National Cancer Institute
Weighing Prevention Versus Cost
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
Diagnosing Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Susan R. Peck, PhD
Sharing a Lifetime
June 09, 2006
Sunburn Reasons & Remedies
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Inherited Syndromes Link Cancers
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Future Risk for Survivors
June 09, 2006 – Rabiya S. Tuma, PhD
Nature's Spoils
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Discovery of Taxol
June 09, 2006 – Frank Stephenson
Melanoma: The Other Skin Cancer
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Picture Not Perfect
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Science of Suncreen
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Planning for Death
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Currently Viewing
Does Heaven Exist?
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Is It Time to Change the Design of Clinical Trials?
June 09, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Drink Up
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Life Well-Lived
June 09, 2006 – Deborah Lang Hampton
Web Exclusive: Caregivers Often Neglect Their Mental Health
June 09, 2006 – The American Cancer Society
Letters from Our Readers
June 09, 2006
Message from the Editor-at-Large
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Choosing a Counselor
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Tips for Preventing Infection
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer as a Legacy
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
Fighting Cancer Together
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Running on Empty
June 09, 2006 – Melissa Knopper
The Blame Game
June 09, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
People & Places
June 09, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Beautiful Day: The Story of a Son's Loss
June 09, 2006 – Kevin Cropp
Surf & Turf
June 09, 2006 – Jennifer M. Gangloff
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Saving Your Skin
June 09, 2006 – Monica Zangwill, MD
Confronting Death
June 09, 2006 – Jo Cavallo

Does Heaven Exist?

In cancer patients, strong religious beliefs can ease fears surrounding death, regardless of the type of religion or spiritual connection.

BY Jo Cavallo
PUBLISHED June 09, 2006

A recent ABC News poll found that nearly nine out of 10 people in the United States believe in heaven. For some cancer patients, strong religious beliefs can ease fears surrounding death.

That so many Americans believe in heaven may not be surprising since most traditional religions, including Catholicism, Judaism, Protestantism, Buddhism and Islam all have some concept of an afterlife, although there may be variations in the strict notion of heaven and hell.

“In Buddhism, death is looked at as a completely normal, natural event that is the ultimate moment for enlightenment, and that it’s going to happen to all of us and that the contemplation of our death enhances our own life because it engenders a deep appreciation and gratitude,” says Joan Halifax, PhD, a Buddhist teacher and founder of the Project on Being with Dying. She says the view of an afterlife is dependent upon the culture in which Buddhism is found. But even so, the essential dharma taught in terms of early Buddhism doesn’t particularly deal with the afterlife—it is more a psychology and a philosophy that involves training the mind.

Having a belief in an afterlife, however, is no guarantee that death will be less frightening or peaceful. Feelings of guilt or unworthiness can sabotage even the strongest faith. “For some Christians, one fear of dying is the separation from God,” explains Reverend Patrick McCoy, director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Chaplaincy in Lebanon, New Hampshire. “There’s this notion of heaven and hell, so as many people approach death they wonder if an afterlife will be good for them or not. They ask, ‘Will I be separated from God or will I be forgiven?’” Remembering the religious teaching that God is loving and forgiving, says Rev. McCoy, can help alleviate that fear.

Nonbelievers in an afterlife can also find comfort as death nears. Rev. McCoy says atheists can be quite comfortable in their approach to death if they have an understanding of death as a natural part of life and see themselves as living in harmony with the pattern of the natural order of things. “It’s not necessarily a time of anxiety just because somebody doesn’t believe in God,” says Rev. McCoy.

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