Mesothelioma is complicated and scary and being diagnosed with it is tantamount to a death sentence. This is because, while there have been advancements in medicine to extend the life of someone who has this type of tumor, it hasn’t advanced enough to cure the tumor completely. The diagnosis is terrible for everyone–the patient and the people who love that patient. When someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s easy to feel helpless. This, however, is not the time to shut down. It is the time to put yourself aside and do your best to help your loved one with his (or her) diagnosis and prognosis.
Cancer, no matter the kind, is a terrible diagnosis. With mesothelioma, however, there is an added layer of bitterness. Why? Because, mesothelioma is always someone’s fault. According to this comprehensive asbestos guide, mesothelioma is the direct result of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a type of insulation that was used abundantly throughout homes, commercial buildings, schools and even in vehicles for much of the 20th century–until scientists uncovered the inherent risks in its use (cancer) and the substance was banned. It occurs in nature, but not openly (it has to be mined). Therefore, contact with these minerals should be controllable.
Many mesothelioma patients will pursue legal action against the companies and individuals who are responsible for their asbestos exposure. While these battles won’t lengthen your loved one’s life, they can help him/her to feel active and like he/she is making some kind of difference. And, if the case is won, the monetary settlement can be quite helpful in paying for medical bills, etc. At the same time, you shouldn’t pressure someone to file suit. Try to remember that even though you might want what feels like revenge, it is okay if the patient would rather live his final years (or months) without the stress of a legal battle.
Little Things Add Up
Buying your loved one a Mr. Potato Head note pad might seem silly or even frivilous given the severity of the situation she is facing. But if that notepad has even a tiny chance of making your friend smile for a minute or two? Buy it for her. The little things, the things that don’t seem big enough, are exactly what will help keep your loved one’s spirits up. Those little “I saw this and it made me think of you” things bring a bright moment to a stressed out person’s day. Those moments add up!
Caring for Caregivers
It is important, especially if you are not your loved one’s primary caregiver, that you remember to support whoever is. Caregivers, especially as the disease advances, have a front row seat to the damage caused by mesothelioma and it can often be as hard for them to face as it is for the patient. It is sometimes even more complicated for caregivers because they often feel like they can’t feel anything about the disease, that all of their emotions have to be “saved” for the patient and his or her support. Lending a hug or a helping hand or whatever kind of support you know how to give to your loved one’s caregiver will go a long way both for that person and for the person you love.
Try Not to Grieve Early
This is the hardest thing to do. Knowing that someone you love is going to be gone much sooner than either of you anticipated is a terrible burden to shoulder. Even if the patient has been given years to live, it is hard not to start imagining what life will look like after they are gone or how much you will miss them. While studies show that things like planning funerals together can help with the grieving process, it is just as important to appreciate your loved one while he or she is still here.
Finally, remember that everybody processes things differently. Try to go with the flow as best you can.