The mesothelioma journey is as individualized as each patient’s tumor. Science has come to this revelation in the past decade regarding mesothelioma- everyone’s tumor is as individualized as their fingerprints. Just like each of us has a unique fingerprint, each patient’s journey with mesothelioma is also unique. Patients and loved ones go through different emotional stages at different times.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book in 1969, “On Death and Dying,” that started discussions on how people handle personal trauma and emotional upset. She identified five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These are not rigid categories, and individual patterns vary as to when, if ever, a person facing a serious illness will go through each of the stages.
I recently saw a gentleman who was 60 years old who had just had a pleurectomy. During his hospitalization he was quiet, anxious and appeared frustrated overall with his diagnosis, staff, length of stay, and just about everything that he encountered. After he was discharged, I visited him at a temporary housing apartment, and I was pleasantly surprised – he welcomed me into his place and acknowledged that he remembered me. I was so happy to see him and to see how well he was progressing.
His journey with mesothelioma had taken a turn, and he had moved on to another stage of healing. He had a bounce in his step, and his attitude was of gratuity and hope. He expressed that he too was surprised at how well he felt, and how far he had come from the dark days in the hospital. He was knowledgeable about his medications, fluid restriction, and dietary restrictions. He spoke about his length of stay in Boston and was completely okay with whatever he had to do. He was feeling better and he was back in a good place psychologically. I could not have imagined that this content, happy man was the same man who I encountered in the hospital.
Like researchers have realized that every mesothelioma tumor is individual and not like any other, the emotional journey is also an individual, unique, journey. As a health care worker, it is my honor to accompany patients and their families on the journey, during rough times as well as calm times.
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