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Pandemic Brings Added Burden to Mesothelioma Patients: No Visitors

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” ― Charles Dickens

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many changes in many areas of our lives. For all patients undergoing treatment in the hospital, there are changes in their experiences. Malignant mesothelioma patients who are hospitalized are experiencing differences between the current experience and the pre-COVID-19 experience. Unfortunately, patients who are undergoing treatment at specialized mesothelioma centers are having to adjust to having no visitors.

The reasons why visitors are not allowed into the hospital are obvious – they are meant to help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There have been a few exceptions, but mostly this is the policy and it is adhered to as much as possible.

Since the pandemic has begun, one of the patients that I have been fortunate to visit in his home described how being alone affected him and his family. He had a complicated one month stay in which he experienced times when he was disoriented, confused and fearful.  He could talk to his wife on the phone but his mind was confused and he could not understand where his family was. He wondered why they were not there helping him or coming to see him. He missed not being able to see his family. He said he felt like he was drowning and no one could help him. His wife also felt a sense of helplessness and sadness that she could not see him and reassure him. They both reported that since the experience and getting home he has had many periods where he would just cry. The patient was trying to understand why this was happening. He had been through a traumatic experience that was exacerbated by not being able to see his loved ones. Through the whole experience he thought by far the worst part was not the physical pain, but the pain of not being able to see his family in person. Although he could talk on the phone and Zoom with his family, their physical presence was missed. He was tearful when he explained that he never thought that would be the toughest part of his treatment so far. Having been through hospitalization and now being home, he admitted to being embarrassed by his tears. They came at the most unexpected times. 

Relationships are what keeps us going. Our families and friends are there for the good times as well as the more challenging times. COVID-19 has challenged all of us in innumerable ways. At times it has reduced us to tears. Accept the challenge and the tears as we move forward together. 

Dealing with all the emotions that having a serious disease and a pandemic at the same time can be overwhelming. The grief is real and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Recognizing the grief can accelerate the healing process both physically and emotionally. Let the tears come as there is nothing to be ashamed about.


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