Dr. Joshua Harris Talks Importance of Spiritual Wellness in Cancer Care

N.New York Cancer & Blood Specialists provides vital care to patients on Long Island, including offices in Southampton. Dr. Joshua Harris, who treats patients at both Mount Sinai and New Hyde Park Medical Oncology, explains why it is important that treatment plans include programs related to mindful and spiritual wellbeing.

What is a mindful practice that most people can use?
In my experience, it is present in the moment and is aware of what it is, I believe, You are experiencing at that particular time. Many patients tend not to pay enough attention to looking at what-if and distant results. Much of it is grateful for the time [we have].

How important is mind and soul awareness for the healing process?
I think it’s hugely important. When we embark on chemotherapy, there is a totality of the experience that, if you are not aware of it, can really escape you. Some people are not particularly religious, but you can still be spiritual and that can help you get through your days.

As a doctor, what can you say about the mind-body relationship?
The mind can do a lot in the sense that it can definitely determine how you will tolerate your side effects. At New York Cancer & Blood Specialists we have integrated a psychologist. We have [a lot to do] with wellness, including physical therapists. We make sure that the entire patient experience is really taken into account. Patients who are mentally better do better.

Can you tell us about a breast cancer patient who has clearly benefited from mindful and spiritual positivity?
We have examples of this every day. One can be afraid or have many fears. Here, We thought this stuff through well before we started treatment. I had patients starting therapy and the biggest hurdle was overcoming the fear of accepting the disease process.

What major advances have you seen over the course of your career in integrating wellness with medicine?
There are many things, especially physical therapy, for patients who are at high risk. In terms of some advances, our center has adapted in a holistic way. We not only look at the disease, but also at the patient. Often times, they focus on the disease, But there are so many additional things like the integration of palliative care, physiotherapy and psychology.

We realized that cancer treatment has more emotional components. At school, I was lucky enough to actually have a simulation where I worked with trained actors. I knew how to deal with the bad news and how to adapt to the various clinical situations in which, as expected, our patients can be very disturbed emotionally. If you go back 25-30 years this wasn’t your top priority, But it has found its way into training and which is really important for patients.

Can some mind-and-spirit practices reduce the need for medicines?
I think it’s always in tandem. In no way do I think one of them is [effective without the other]. I really think it’s one of those things that they complement each other. Reducing the risk of body weight and the like are definitely things that work together.

How did the New York cancer and blood specialists maintain the mind and soul of their patients?
New York Cancer & Blood Specialists is very excited about this. We have been very fortunate to be able to get to Suffolk and Nassau counties and provide all of these additional resources compared to other locations. We have all the resources at play to look at the person, the individual, their social situations and their mental wellbeing – we are a warm, welcoming environment.

For more information on New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, please visit nycancer.com.

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