A national network of hospitals in the U.S. called Cancer Treatment Centers of America is combining state-of-the-art medical care for patients in advanced-stages of cancer with spiritual support by a team of pastors, which is said to help patients live longer.
"The focus of Care that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America utilizes is a 'Holistic Model,' and in that model 'Spirituality' among several other modalities, and the support of such in a clinical environment, based upon a plethora of research strongly suggests that healing, and wellness can be directly related to those emphasis, which in this case would be 'Spirituality/Religious' support," the Rev. Percy W. McCray, Jr., pastoral care director at CTCA, shared with The Christian Post in an email on Tuesday.
While a team of oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and integrative care clinicians assist with the patients' medical needs, the pastors minister to their Christian faith.
"God is love and His loving presence is experienced by our patients within the deep and warm personal relationships with their physicians, chaplains, and many others," said Rev. Michael Barry, director of Pastoral Care with CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center.
"The relationships we have with our patients begin with the first step through our doors, continue while away at home, and can be described as nothing other than holy. CTCA is a special place for special people at a special time in their life."
The pastoral care team has been a part of the treatment plan at CTCA from the very beginning, according to McCray.
"The effects of Pastoral Care are well documented: Patients tend to live longer, they cope better, they utilize more aggressive treatments at end of life; patients find purpose through the process of sickness, and treatment with Pastoral Care," he stated to CP.
The pastors help not only the patients but also their families. They lead worship services, Bible studies and times of prayer at the hospitals.
"One of the first things that cancer does is to try and steal hope. But we recognize that God is the source of hope. Through faith, we can find strength and hope in Him, especially in the face of challenges and difficult moments," CTCA says on its website.
As for patients who happen to be of a non-Christian faith or of no faith at all, McCray explained that the Pastoral Care team seeks to find solutions to accommodate everyone.
"Pastoral Care provides support to non-Christian patients by offering them Faith Specific Representatives of their belief system from the local community, and as for no faith belief, Pastoral Care is completely prepared to relate to patients on their own terms, without imposing any Faith Orientation upon anyone," the Pastoral Care director stated.
CTCA was founded in 1988 by Richard J. Stephenson, following the death of his mother, Mary Brown Stephenson, from cancer. Stephenson vowed to change the face of cancer care in America, and today the organization operates a national network of fully accredited cancer hospitals.
Currently, CTCA provides care to patients from all 50 states, and has facilities located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa.