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Offering Words of Comfort to a Friend or Family Member with Mesothelioma


Don Smitley enjoys visit from his cousin after mesothelioma treatment.

Don Smitley enjoys visit from his cousin after mesothelioma treatment.

Sometimes, when a family member or friend is ill, you don’t know what to say. You worry about saying the wrong thing, asking too many questions, or appearing to be less than genuine, so instead you say nothing. It’s important to think before you speak to someone about their diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, but also to be there for your loved one and show concern and support.

Even though you may not understand mesothelioma, keep in mind that the person you’re trying to comfort may not know a lot about it either. Questions about the disease itself may not be the best thing to discuss right off the bat.  Trust me, it is a lot to take in!  Also, realize that malignant mesothelioma is a serious thing; be careful not to shrug it off.

It might be best not to discuss where the person thinks they were exposed to asbestos, as that is neither here nor there at this point. Talking about others who might have had mesothelioma is a good topic to shy away from as well. Medicine and mesothelioma treatments are much more advanced now than they were even 5 or 10 years ago, and the survival rate is much better.

Whatever you say, be sure that it comes from the heart. If you are going to ask how someone is doing, listen. Don’t change the subject or try to lessen what they are going through. Rejoice with them in their triumphs and share in their struggles. Offer to help with specific things, but again, be sincere and follow through. Make plans once or twice a month to do something together, and be sure to do it. Platitudes mean nothing if they are not concrete.

Some things that my Dad was told that helped him so much were, “keep the faith!”, “God doesn’t only go half way”, and other uplifting messages of hope and trust in God.  Also, never underestimate the importance of silence and saying a prayer together. My family spent and still spends a great deal of time praying. God will hear them and answer them.

Your loved one might have things they want to talk about, some of which may have nothing to do with meso. Let them guide the conversation and allow them to get some things off their chest if need be. They might not feel like talking about things that day, so let them take control and talk about their interests.

Don’t be afraid or discouraged to talk with someone about their illness, mesothelioma or otherwise.  The key is to be sensitive to what they are going through and to be earnest and heartfelt in your conversations. They and their family will appreciate your presence and prayers!

Jennifer Gelsick

About the Author - 

Jennifer wrote about life for her family as her father, Don Smitley, battled mesothelioma. Mr. Smitley passed away in 10/2013 and now Jennifer writes with a different perspective, helping those with mesothelioma.

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