The first principle of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that “[h]ealth is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Mesothelioma patients don’t have a choice to be free from disease, but you do have the right to mental, physical, and social well-being.
Here are tips for mesothelioma patients to stay as healthy and happy as possible during mesothelioma treatment.
Total Health Impacts on Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma is a serious and usually incurable cancer. Mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can sap your energy. The symptoms of the disease and the side effects of mesothelioma treatments can leave you physically and mentally depleted.
At the moment when you feel your lowest, it’s important not to give up or give in to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients just like you have been through the same and worse.
Your overall health can make a big difference to your mesothelioma prognosis. The better care you take of your total being, the better your chances for longer survival.
Physical Health Tips for Mesothelioma Patients
For mesothelioma patients, physical health isn’t just a measure of the progression of your cancer. It’s also how well other conditions such as diabetes or congestive heart failure are controlled. It’s a measure of your physical fitness and muscle mass.
Maintaining your physical health is especially important during mesothelioma treatment. Here are some health tips to keep your body as fit as possible during this challenging time:
- Walk: Walking is terrific exercise; it’s the movement for which our bodies are best designed. You can walk quickly or slowly, indoors or outside, depending on how you feel. You can take a long walk once a day or get up frequently and walk for just a few minutes. The key is to get up out of bed and move around.
- Lift Weights: Loss of muscle mass can be a problem for mesothelioma patients. Keeping your muscles as strong as possible will help you stay energetic and feel healthier. Lifting weights is a great way to strengthen your upper body. You can use a small barbell or even a household object. A can of soup might be a good weight to get you started. Check with your doctor about your plan. Ask if a physical therapist is available to give you advice on additional strength training.
- Yoga and Stretching: A gentle yoga or stretching routine can help ease your aches and pains so you feel like walking or lifting weights. Yoga poses can help balance your body and support its natural healing powers. Look for a restorative yoga class, either online or at a facility near you.
Mental Health Tips for Mesothelioma Patients
Mental health is just as important to mesothelioma patients as physical health. There is no proof that negative emotions cause cancer (or that positive thinking can cure it). But it is true that your mental health can affect your mesothelioma treatment and the quality of the time you spend with family and friends.
It’s easy to forget about your emotional well-being when you are shuffling back and forth to doctor’s visits and recovering from mesothelioma treatments. Depression and anxiety are common among mesothelioma patients and these conditions deserve treatment too.
If you are feeling blue, you don’t have to keep a stiff upper lip. Here are some of the ways that you can look after your mental health as well as your physical well-being:
- Seek and Accept Help: Whatever you are feeling, you don’t have to face it alone. Counseling can help you feel better. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Ask your doctor or social worker for a referral.
- Get a Change of Scenery: Whether you take a drive to a favorite scenic spot or sit among the flowers in your garden, getting out can be uplifting. Many people find time in nature grounding and healing.
- Stay in the Present: Our minds often want to jump ahead to the future. For mesothelioma patients, the future is uncertain and sometimes scary. Try to stay grounded in today. Just for this day, if you are free from pain, if you can eat good food and see the birds flying outside your window, let that be enough to consider it a good day.
- Accept the Feelings that Come Up: Don’t try to fight them. Mesothelioma is a life-changing diagnosis. It’s normal to feel grief, sadness, and anxiety. Give yourself the permission – and the space – to feel your feelings. They will have less bite if you allow them to wash over you.
- Look for Chances to Laugh: Reader’s Digest was right: laughter is the best medicine. Feelings of stress can harm your immune system and, on the flip side, laughter can improve your immune response. Watch a movie that makes you laugh. Get friends to tell you jokes. Look at funny cat videos. It doesn’t matter what makes you laugh. A bit of silliness will do you good, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Social Well-being Tips for Mesothelioma Patients
It’s easy to understand why mesothelioma patients might want to avoid people they know. You might have trouble doing the activities you used to enjoy together. Talking can be tiring. You don’t want to be a burden. Plus, you don’t want your friends to see this new you – the you with mesothelioma.
Your friends and family see your insides, not your outsides. Inside, you’re still the same you they have always known. Your friends want to see you. Don’t deprive them of your company.
Social interaction is important for you, too, though there might be days when you don’t feel like talking to anyone. Social support will improve your daily experience of life. There is even some evidence, from studies of other types of cancer, that a strong social support network can increase your survival time.
Your support network can provide vital assistance. Here are some tips for mesothelioma patients on reaching out for social support.
- Join a Group: Ask your doctor if there is a mesothelioma support group in your area. Talking about your experiences with other mesothelioma patients can provide a valuable release. Supporting and being supported by people who understand exactly what you’re going through will help you get through.
- Call Your Friends and Invite Them Over: Your home doesn’t have to be a place of mourning. You may not feel well enough to go out and grab a round of beers with the boys, but maybe some of them can come to you. Invite friends over to play cards or to watch a game or just to hang out with you. They will appreciate the time as much as you do.
- If You Can Get Out, Do Get Out: Don’t let mesothelioma be your prison. When you feel up to it, go to the social events you attended in the past. Ask a friend to accompany you, if you need help getting around in crowds. Life is still yours to enjoy.