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A mesothelioma diagnosis doesn’t just affect the patient. It affects the whole family.
Sons, daughters, and other close family members often find themselves attending doctor’s appointments, managing a patient’s care, explaining the disease to grandchildren, and navigating financial hardships associated with treatment and long-term care.
All this stress can take a heavy toll on caregivers, but there are support groups for families of mesothelioma patients.
And at MesotheliomaHelp.org, we have gathered some tips to help family members who are coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Learning About a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. About 3,000 cases are diagnoses each year in the United States.
One of the first things people do after they have received a mesothelioma diagnosis is to research the disease, treatment options, and prognosis. When meeting with your parent or loved one’s doctor, there are several questions you should ask.
Some of the questions suggested by the American Cancer Society include:
- What type of mesothelioma is it? Has the cancer spread?
- What are the treatment options for mesothelioma? And which one is right for my parent?
- What can we expect from this treatment? (How long will it last? Where will it be?)
- What side effects should we expect as we progress with treatment?
- How will my parent’s everyday life be affected?
- What arrangements should I be making for care?
Not every doctor has experience with this type of asbestos cancer, so it is important to speak with a mesothelioma specialist about all your options and what you can expect. Find a mesothelioma doctor or hospital near you now.
Tips for Coping with the Uncertainty
It often feels like so much of a patient’s and caregiver’s time is spent waiting ─ waiting for a doctor’s appointment, waiting for lab results, waiting for treatment to start.
And with a mesothelioma diagnosis, the future can seem so uncertain, so out of your control.
The National Cancer Institute recommends several ways for caregivers to cope with the uncertainty of a mesothelioma diagnosis:
- Research what services are available to you and your family.
- Talk to your parent’s doctor about how you can keep the patient as healthy as possible.
- Don’t try to pretend that you’re not afraid, but don’t dwell on your fears. It may help to pray, meditate, or talk to others.
- Use your energy on things you can control, such as your health and well-being. Eat right, exercise, and give yourself some downtime.
- Recognize and accept that there are going to be things that are out of your control.
Taking Care of Yourself
Becoming a caregiver is a big adjustment for most people, especially when you’re an adult child taking care of a parent.
Sons and daughters of mesothelioma patients often find themselves putting their parents’ needs before their own, and the stress can take a physical and psychological toll on you.
It is important that you find ways to take some of that pressure off you.
The National Cancer Institute suggests:
- Talk to family members, friends, or a counselor about the feelings YOU are experiencing. Consider joining a mesothelioma support group.
- Ask others for help with tasks such as household chores, cooking, taking kids to school, or picking up medicine.
- Make time to focus on yourself for 15 to 30 minutes every day. Watch TV, read, exercise, do simple yoga stretches, or just sit quietly ─ whatever helps you unwind.
- Don’t put your life on hold. You may not have time to do all the activities you did before your loved one got sick, but you need to stay connected with the people you love and enjoy spending time with.
- Find a routine that incorporates some of your regular activities, even if you can’t devote as much time to them as you did before.
- Don’t bottle up stress about family members who aren’t helping. Everyone has their own way of coping with difficult news, and some people may not understand how much you need them right now. Try to talk it out, if you can, and tell them what you need from them.
Advice on Talking to Children About Mesothelioma
There is no easy way to explain cancer to a child, but it is likely that your kids, especially if they are older, can sense that something is going on.
Talking to children about cancer can keep them from misunderstanding the situation and can allow them to ask questions about what the future may hold.
MacMillan Cancer Support offers these tips for talking to children about cancer:
- Make sure you have a good understanding of the situation so you can answer questions that might come up.
- Be honest about what is happening.
- Explain what is happening in simple terms that they can understand.
- Ask them what they (think they) know about cancer, and clear up any misunderstandings.
- If you and your child are comfortable with it, tell teachers or other parents about the situation so there are additional adults your child can talk to.
Dealing with Financial Difficulties?
On top of the doctor’s bills and treatment expenses, caregivers often face financial stress when they are forced to quit their jobs to take care of a mesothelioma patient.
However, it is important to recognize that financial relief may be available. Because mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, patients and families can hold asbestos companies financially responsible for expenses and damages associated with the illness.
Contact us today to learn about your legal options for pursuing the compensation you and your family need during this difficult time.