Living with mesothelioma is going to cause changes in the months to come. You can expect physical, emotional and financial changes as you go through mesothelioma treatment. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to get ready for what’s ahead. Even though living with mesothelioma will bring challenges, there are ways you can cope. Knowing what changes to expect can help you cope with your journey with mesothelioma. You are a unique individual and your experiences may differ from what we describe here. Always discuss any changes or symptoms you experience with your health care providers.
Coping With Mesothelioma Discomfort
About 75 percent of mesothelioma cases occur in the chest. This is pleural mesothelioma. As the tumor in the chest grows, chest pain, as well as frequent and painful coughing, can occur. As the cancer spreads, pain becomes more likely as it affects other areas of the body and presses on surrounding organs. Bone metastases may occur and may also cause pain as well as increased fracture risk. Pain may also occur in the lower back, or, in the case of peritoneal (abdominal) mesothelioma, in the abdomen. Pain management medications prescribed by your physician can make living with mesothelioma more bearable.
How Living With Mesothelioma Can Change Your Appearance
Your image of how you look may change during mesothelioma treatment – as well as how others perceive you. If you need chemotherapy there is the possibility of hair loss and weight changes. Hats, hoods, scarves and possibly wigs can help you cope with hair loss. Diet and exercise supervised by a medical professional can help with your weight and health as you adjust to living with mesothelioma.
Physical Challenges You May Experience During Mesothelioma Treatment
Side effects of mesothelioma treatment can cause some temporary physical changes. If you’re undergoing radiation treatments, you can expect skin changes and some fatigue. Your oncologist can help you cope with these symptoms, which should fade with time. Chemotherapy affects your whole body and causes a variety of side effects including nausea, fatigue, “chemo brain” (changes in memory and concentration), skin and nail changes, loss of appetite, changes in smell and taste and sleep disturbances. There are medications and coping strategies that will get you through these temporary symptoms.
Emotional Adjustments to Living With Mesothelioma
You may go through some emotional stages when living with mesothelioma. You might feel betrayed by your own body, and have a sense that you’ve lost control of your health. Give yourself time to process the shock of your mesothelioma diagnosis, move toward acceptance, and emotionally prepare yourself to do battle with the disease. Even if you are an optimistic person when faced with a life-threatening illness, feelings of fear, anger, and depression are normal. Seek help if you feel overwhelmed.
How Mesothelioma Can Change Relationship Dynamics
If you have always been the strong person for your family and friends – the chief breadwinner, the handyperson, chauffeur and gardener- you may find that your roles and relationships may change during your mesothelioma treatment. As you experience emotional and physical changes, you can learn how to accept support and care from those around you. If some people begin to withdraw, let them go. Celebrate your strong relationships and be willing to forgive people whose own unresolved feelings about illness prevent them from being able to be there for you. You might find new friends in a mesothelioma support group or with relatives and neighbors. Be open to unexpected sources of support from other mesothelioma patients and their families.