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How To Deal: With a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Updated on June 11, 2011

What is Mesothelioma?

A quick Google search will tell you that "Mesothelioma, more precisely malignant mesothelioma, is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body's internal organs, the mesothelium. It is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos."

All that is true, but this disease is so much more. It's an interuption of life. It's an end to all your plans. It's unfair.

As of now, not much can be done to treat Mesothelioma.

This article is meant to guide you through dealing with a Mesothelioma diagnosis. It is important to remember- whether you are a patient or a family member or a friend- that you are not alone in this struggle.


The First Step:

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with malignant Mesothelioma, it is important to confront your emotions. You should not bottle up your grief, fear, anger, etc just to appear strong. You don't always have to be strong. You are allowed to be upset.

While facing your feelings, it is important to share. Talk with somone you trust and won't be embarrassed to share with: hash out why you feel what you do. What are your greatest fears at the moment, and why? What do you feel needs to be accomplished? It is important to have these things worked out early on, so you can begin to put affairs in order.

If your loved one has been diagnosed, now is the time to listen and express what you feel as well. Keep in mind that they will need a lot of support.

You might want to consider seeking grief counseling for those involved. A professional's opinion can't make these situations worse, and it's nice to know you have a lot of people on your side.


Your Options:

Malignant Mesothelioma is not always a death sentence, but the disease is very rare and should not be taken lightly.

Once you've gotten over the shock of the diagnosis, it's time to look into treatment. Talk with loved ones to decide how far you're willing to go with treatment. Will you try experimental procedures? Is surgery possible, and will you be willing to go under the knife if your chances are risky?

While going over options, you may also want to look into contacting a Mesothelioma lawyer. If the disease was caused by exposure during work in mines, shipyards, etc you could be entitled to compensation. When faced with a roadblock like Mesothelioma, every bit helps.

Get the facts:

Your doctors will be very open about your chances, and your timeline if it comes to that. Don't be afraid to ask questions; it's natural to be curious. But don't leave all the thinking to the doctors. Do some research at home. Come to examination prepared with questions and suggestions if you have any.

Worst Case Scenario:

So, you or a loved one has been given a timeline. It's time to seriously begin putting your affairs in order, not just finacial affairs, but affairs of the heart as well.

You'll probably want to take some time to reflect before you jump into anything, and that is perfectly reasonable. Just make sure you don't begin wallowing in self-pity. You've been given a set amount of time, and now it's up to you to maximize that time.

Some things you might want to consider:

A will- this is important, especially if you have a large family. Set aside a few items for loved ones that you know they will appreciate. By no means should you feel obligated to divide all of your possessions among the surviving family members. Do only what your are emotionally capable to do.

write a memior- It doesn't have to be as big as a novel, and you certainly don't have to be a great writer to record some thoughts and memories down in a journal. It can serve two purposes: help you reflect, and leave your loved ones with a tangible memory of you. They can look back on your words, and you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you will be well-remembered.

do you have small children?- try to create lasting memories with them that they will carry for the rest of their lives. Take them to a theme park, or go swimming with dolphins, something you know they will cherich enough for it to remain vivid. Make a point of interacting very closely with them. Make this a personal trip, one between yourself and the children. You might also want to write letters or stories to them, something that can convey all the advice they'll need as they grow up. Tell them how much you love them.

do you have older children?- don't keep the truth from them, thinking you are sparing them hardship. Keep them posted; you don't have to give them all the details of you don't what, but you should at least let it be known that your are sick. They will sense something is wrong anyway, and it's much better to keep them from worrying about the unknown.

if you're a loved one- try not to smother the patient. There will be a lot going through their heads. Your thoughts and feelings are important, too, but there will be a time and place to express them. Let the patient be a star for a while.


And Finally:

Remember to enjoy life! It doesn't matter whether you're a patient or a loved one, terminal or not...we're all going to die eventually. Use this diagnosis as a wake-up call. Start living as if your time is limited, because it is.

So tell that person about your feelings, take that vaction to Guam, start that business you've been thinking about. You've got nothing to lose.

Good luck.


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