A mesothelioma diagnosis can bring forth an overwhelming variety of emotions for patients and their families. It is totally normal for you to feel sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, confusion or loneliness. You may even find yourself feeling numb, like your mind has shut down your emotions. Yet in these very difficult times, it is important to address your emotions early and often so that you can stay mentally strong as you go through treatments.
Always keep in mind that there is no “right” way to react to having mesothelioma. How you feel is how you feel. Here are some strategies for caring for your emotions that we recommend:
- Be candid and honest about your emotions around friends, family and doctors. You might be surprised at how good it can feel to simply say out loud that you are scared, angry or stressed out. Bottling or censoring your feelings will only make you feel helpless or isolated.
- Consider obtaining support from a counselor, someone who specializes in talking with patients who have advanced cancers, chronic diseases or mesothelioma itself. Usually, taking your loved ones to these meetings is good for everyone, as it can help you and those caring for you learn to ride out the emotional roller coaster.
- Don’t feel you have to be the strong one. It is easy to fall into a cycle in which you end up comforting everyone else and forget (or refuse to acknowledge) that you also need support. Remember that comfort and communication are two-way streets.
- Allow yourself time to cope with the stress and change that come with having mesothelioma.Don’t worry if you feel like a different person every day, or even every hour. Your mind, just like your body, needs time to accept and deal with your diagnosis.
You can expect to feel all sorts of emotions. Try not to ignore them. Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling. Be sure to talk about it, though. There are lots of peer support groups where you can meet other mesothelioma patients who share your journey.
If you find that emotions such as denial or depression are getting in the way of your desire to follow your treatment plan, be sure to seek help.
Also, keep in mind that with the bad feelings come good ones: hope, optimism, humor and acceptance. Making plans for the future, focusing on relationships with loved ones and acknowledging the positives of your situation can help you feel strong, whole and happy.