When you are living with mesothelioma, there’s a lot on your to-do list. Much of it is necessary but not necessarily fun – things like doctor appointments, lab tests, chemo and radiation treatments. You have to do these things to take care of yourself. But maybe another way of taking care of yourself is not doing things. Every moment of every day is precious. So maybe part of living with mesothelioma is knowing that it is okay – important, even – to not do some things.
When illness forced former University of California professor Toni Bernhard to give up her college teaching career, she became an expert on the subject of living with chronic illness. She the author of the award-winning book How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers and other works. Here’s a list of six things not to do when you have mesothelioma adapted from Bernhard’s “Not-to-do List for the Chronically Ill.”
1. DO NOT say “yes” to an activity if your body is saying “no.
It can be hard to turn down an activity that makes you feel more like a healthy person. It is normal to feel frustrated by your limitations and to want to rebel against them. But the consequences may not be worth it. Try to find alternative activities.
2. DO NOT call yourself names or otherwise speak unkindly to yourself.
Do not say things about yourself like, “How dumb of me to forget my appointment.” A good test for whether you’re treating yourself kindly is to ask if you would speak or act that way toward a loved one in need. If not, don’t speak or act that way toward yourself. It’s hard enough being sick and in pain. There’s never a good reason to add negative self-talk into the mix.
3. DO NOT try a treatment just because someone said it cured his or her cancer.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer and the cancer arena is full of scientifically unproven so-called cures. Don’t assume that any seemingly magic cure is for you. Do your research, consult with your doctor and those whom you trust. Reflect on how, if this really were a cure for mesothelioma, it would be highlighted on websites you’ve learned to trust.
4. DO NOT wait until the last minute to get ready for something.
Waiting too long is an invitation for getting stressed. And stress is bad for your immune system. When getting ready to go anywhere, try doubling the amount of time you think it will take.
5. DO NOT strive for a spotless living environment.
Do not insist that your living space be immaculate and don’t feel bad if it isn’t. That would be engaging in unkind self-talk and that’s already on your Not-To-Do list.
6. DO NOT wear uncomfortable clothes.
Your body is already struggling. Don’t subject it to overly tight pants, painful shoes or zippers that pinch. Exception: If there’s a special occasion that will give you a mental lift if you break this rule, break it.