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For Patients, Nutrition and Exercise Plays an Important Part in the Mesothelioma Journey

Nutrition and exercise plays an important part in a person’s journey with Malignant Mesothelioma.  Recovering from Mesothelioma treatment can be difficult. Whether it is recovering from chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery it can be challenging regardless of the type of treatment you have experienced. 

Nutrition can play a key role in recovering from your treatment. Choosing foods that are high in protein and fat will offer the most reward. Offering starchy foods or carbohydrates like pasta, bread, potatoes and sources of protein like fish, chicken, meats, nuts, turkey, and cheese are great options. For many, these food choices can be overwhelming and difficult to eat. Breaking down meals to smaller portion sizes and more frequently may be easier. If food is not the best choice, drink high calorie protein drinks.  There are many protein drinks available to suit your needs and taste. We have cared for many people who have undergone surgery or chemotherapy and food is the last thing they can enjoy. 

We encourage patients to weigh themselves weekly to monitor progress. Eating when recovering can be a huge chore for some and can become a daunting task. If possible, try to eat one more thing than you did the day before. 

For many their taste buds have been altered. Many times, we hear that food has a metallic taste when receiving chemotherapy. Just keep trying foods and taking in calories. Along the road to recovery things change. If you are recovering from surgery or chemotherapy the taste buds will change again. Maybe the food that tasted awful a few weeks ago will taste better down the road.

Many medical centers where one receives their care can provide nutritional support with nutritionists. Adequate nutrition to maintain energy, muscle mass and your weight may help with tolerating your treatment better. The American Cancer Society states, proper nutrition during treatment supports your immune system and may lower your risk of infection and help you heal and recover faster.”

Many people attempt to  continue with their exercise regime throughout treatment, and others never had a regime and become engaged in one.  Walking is one of the easiest and accessible forms of exercise. Whatever your choice of exercise is there are many benefits to it while recovering from your treatment with cancer. Exercise can lower your risk of depression, anxiety, improve sleep and reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases. Many people include stretching and breathing exercises as well.

Healthier lifestyles can result in improvement of quality and length of life for some cancer survivors, according to the National Cancer Institute.   Surround yourself with people who will maintain positivity and cheer you on. The benefits of developing a healthier diet and exercise habits during treatment may carry over into survivorship. According to the National Cancer Institute, research suggests that these healthier behaviors may improve the quality and length of life of some cancer survivors. If you have questions, reach out to your treatment center and see what support is available to you. There are many support systems to help with nutrition. Patients who have journeyed before you with the same issues are often  willing to share what worked for them, when recovering from and living with Mesothelioma.

 

Where Can Mesothelioma Patients Find Hope?

With the state of the world right now, it is hard to maintain a hopeful outlook. Is there a place for hope?

From the larger version of what is going on in the world’s stage, to the very personal journeys we are all on, is hope enough or even possible with the current world events? It is hard not to despair against the overwhelming odds and events that are going on. Despair being the opposite of hope.

When diagnosed with a life threatening cancer, or any time we pause to reflect on our lives, we review our wishes, our hopes, and what has happened to our lives. Our hopes range the spectrum and are as different as we all are. We hope for a cure for our disease. Hope for no pain. Hope that your loved ones’ pain is eased. Hope that our time left is meaningful. Hope plays a part in any cancer journey. 

A pioneer in Mesothelioma research, Dr. David Sugarbaker, used to say “when hope is in the equation, the odds don’t matter.”

What if despite what you hope for, the outcome is not what you wanted? What do we do when we lose a loved one to cancer?

One person turned their despair into hope and hope for others. In 2009, Greg Chastain lost his mother to cancer. One of the things that he enjoyed doing and his mother enjoyed watching was his performances in community theaters. When his mother died he was appropriately devastated. A week after, he went on with the show he had planned to be in. His theater family was so supportive, he decided to do a one time benefit to raise money for cancer research.

The benefit was such a success, he started Voices for Hope. “We are ordinary people on an extraordinary mission to find a cure for cancer.” Voices of Hope, all volunteer performers whose lives have been affected in some way by cancer, perform and raise money  and donate all of it to cancer research, for the collective good. Research toward a cure. One person turning despair into hope. Hope for a cure for cancer.

Research for malignant mesothelioma has long been supported by individuals who have been affected by this disease. Maybe the cure did not come in their lifetimes, or their loved ones’ lifetime, but maybe it will come in their children’s lifetime. Hope for better outcomes, for the collective good.

To have hope is to want an outcome that makes your life better. We hope that this positive example that one person took with his despair may potentially help to impact  many of us, through successful research to a cure.

As we  all collectively join together, w  hope for peace.

Mesothelioma Patients Must Invest in Themselves

Undergoing treatment for mesothelioma can be a challenge to sustain for the long haul. The mesothelioma team invests in the patient, with their expertise and time. This treatment plan is most successful when the patient is willing to partner with the team as well. For most treatments of illnesses, the best equation is that the team and the patient are invested in whatever it takes to make the best possible outcome for the patient. Usually the relationship between the patient and team is ongoing and long term.

Once the plan is formulated and executed, a plan that could involve radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or surgery or a combination of therapies, and the patient is home managing his care, often the physical and emotional challenges set in.

With improvements in therapies for a growing majority of patients, malignant mesothelioma can become a chronic condition for some. Chronic conditions require attention and balancing.

Living with a chronic condition day to day is challenging. The CDC describes a chronic condition as   conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. It is also estimated that between 95 and 99 percent of chronic care is managed by the person that has the chronic illness.

Most patients will do anything to get better so that is a great start on the investment. It requires activity, nutrition, and a good mental state. What makes a patient who has a rare disease have a good mental state is a good question. The mind is a huge component of fighting illness, and it helps us move forward and not get caught up in our thoughts.

There are many ways patients can stay positive and engaged. You can commit to making a new habit – research shows that it can take up to 66 days to form a solid habit. Many make a list of activities they would like to perform and monitor their progress. Everyone deals with ups and downs – there will be good days and not good days. Sometimes things seem easy that were difficult the day before.

Researchers have shown that being grateful can have positive effects on your brain and increase happiness. Researchers also suggest writing down a list of things that you appreciate, to remember that much more of what we are grateful for. If you have a diary of things you are grateful for, this will become a tool to reflect upon.

The key to being the best you can be while you continue your living with malignant mesothelioma is self-investment of time in your health for the long term. You are the biggest investment and if you don’t invest in yourself, who will? Basically, it is investing or contributing time to you. The investment can include physical, mental, or spiritual activities.

One investment that you know will return dividends is trying to achieve the best possible outcomes with your health. Make it a habit to live your life to the fullest with malignant mesothelioma for the long haul!

A Necessary Discussion: End-of-Life Options for Mesothelioma Patients

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a frightening time for all of us. The uncertain nature of the disease and number of people affected brings the importance of what we want at the end of our lives to the forefront. With hospitals and skilled nursing facilities limiting visitors and the inability of some to travel, it is necessary to discuss what we wish to happen at the end of life with our loved ones.

We all know that when one person within our family or group of friends gets diagnosed with a severe illness like malignant mesothelioma, it affects all of us. Uncomfortable conversations need to be had. However, navigating these complex and potentially life-altering conversations can be done in a reflective, thoughtful way. 

As nurses, we have long heard our peers state that they would never have chosen the treatment that a particular patient went with, only to confront a health challenge themselves and choose the same treatment option. 

Our relationships are the most important connections that we have. What we value and who we love are all individual decisions. Once we self-reflect on what we value and how we would like to live our final days, we need to let others know. To ensure your wishes are carried out, they must be shared with those who care about us: a spouse, partners, friends, and so on. Your medical team needs to know your desires, but more important than anything is that you and your loved ones know them.

Having essential conversations regarding our end-of-life wishes should be done by all of us, ideally before a health crisis. But unfortunately, it is easy to put off these conversations. 

There is guidance and help on where to start thinking and planning about our wishes. Ellen Goodman, one of the co-founders of the Conversation Project, sums up their goal:  “Conversations about what matters to you, not what is the matter with you.”

There are workbooks to help clarify your values and wishes. What do you value? Do you want to be home when you die? With who will you share your wishes? 

In this complex world, sometimes we need to get back to basics and accept that we all are mortal. Talking and planning will not hasten our end of life but enable some peace when it does come. Ensuring that what you as an individual value and the decisions you want are honored can offer some peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

Mesothelioma Patients Can Benefit from Time Outside this Summer

Staying positive and maintaining your overall health to the best of your ability is key for your journey with malignant mesothelioma. This is a difficult time but there are some basic things you can do that will help you. Simply going outside is a positive step. 

Going outside can do so much for your outlook or mental state and your overall health. In the United States, according to the EPA, the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors. Going outside can boost your mood – no special equipment or membership required, just the great outdoors.   

Another positive benefit of spending time outdoors is an increase in your Vitamin D. Vitamin D is beneficial to your bones, blood cells, and immune system. It can also help with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. With decreased levels of Vitamin D a person is more likely to get colds and the flu. Also, if a person gets sick with pneumonia with decreased levels of Vitamin D, the outcome can be more serious. Sunlight can keep your serotonin levels up if you go outside as well. This will help raise your energy levels and keep your mood positive.

Just by going outside, there is a chance you may connect with people in your community. Human contact can be important to your mental health. Sometimes being inside we tend to get lost in our own thoughts and this is not always positive. Getting outdoors can distract those thoughts inside your head for even just a few moments. In fact, studies show that time in nature can boost your problem solving skills. If you are feeling frustrated or down, the outside world may change your thinking for even just a short time.

Depending on the weather there may be precautions you should take. Stay well hydrated if the weather is warm. Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, or bug spray if necessary. Also bring a phone in case you need to be in touch with someone, or may need a ride back.

Mesothelioma is a complex disease. Each case is unique, similar to one’s fingerprint. Medical centers continue to push for more knowledge and treatments. Although there are many interventions, ideas, and thoughts on how we treat symptoms, some therapeutic ideas are just basic like going outside. The good news: you don’t need to travel and it costs nothing.

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