Support for Patients, Family Members, and Caregivers
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Finding Meaning In A Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When your loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are often left wondering why. Why did this happen? Why can’t more be done to cure this disease? Why are we dealing with this when so many others seem carefree?

Mesothelioma is a devastating and rare disease that effects only a fraction of the population that has contact with asbestos. Researchers say that two factors contribute to a mesothelioma diagnosis: early and ongoing exposure to asbestos and genetics. Instead of asking why, now is the time to move forward for help. This help often comes in the form of information.

Learning About The Disease

When serving as a caregiver for a mesothelioma patient, it’s important to learn about the disease process so you know what to expect. In the earlier stages of the disease, stages I and II, patients are often given treatment choices that could change the course of the disease including the surgical removal of the damaged tissue.

However, mesothelioma patients are often diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. In stage IV, patients are typically only offered palliative care to relieve the pain symptoms. A diagnosis in any of the disease stages can cause feelings of anger, grief and resentment. Some turn to spirituality or religion for relief.

Seeking Spiritual Support

According to the National Cancer Institute, religious and spiritual values are so important to Americans that doctors say it improves an ill patient’s quality of life. Many patients and caregivers use these beliefs to help them deal with the trauma of cancer, called spiritual coping.

But this type of coping is different for everyone because spirituality is so different for everyone. For some patients, religion and spirituality change how they approach mesothelioma treatments and decisions.

While the terms spirituality and religion are often used interchangeably, they are two separate meanings:

  • Religion -- A set of beliefs and practices based on an organized group and their teaching.
  • Spirituality -- An individual’s sense of peace and a connection to others in the search for the meaning of life. Spirituality is often expressed through religion. Many people think of themselves as both spiritual and religious.

Spirituality and Religion in Mesothelioma Treatment

Both spirituality and religion can have a profound effect after a diagnosis. At times, some may feel as though they are being punished or penalized following a mesothelioma diagnosis. This kind of spiritual distress may make it more difficult for some patients to cope with the trials of the disease.

Other patients and caregivers may draw upon their spirituality and religion to improve their health and quality of life. This type of spiritual well being can create an improved positive feelings, a feeling of personal growth as a result of living with cancer and a decreased sense of isolation or depression. In essence, spirituality and religion give some patients the tools they need for their positive outcome.

Turning To Friends And Family

Spirituality and religion are often a means to creating stronger ties to family and friends, which are another important aspect of finding meaning in a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Following a diagnoses of mesothelioma, family and friends often want to help but don’t know how. Sometimes, a first reaction may be to shut out family and friends for this private time. While they will understand, it’s important to remember that they love you. Now is the time to surround yourself with love and support. Your best friends and close family members will respect your decisions and listen without expectations. They want to help but don’t know how. Don’t be afraid to tell them how they can help.

Sources:

  1. American Cancer Society. When Someone You Know Has Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/talkingaboutcancer/whensomeoneyouknowhascancer/when-somebody-you-know-has-cancer-basic-dos-and-donts
  2. Balboni, TA, et al. “Religiousness and spiritual support among advanced cancer patients and associations with end-of-life treatment preferences and quality of life.” PubMed.gov. 2007. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17290065
  3. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. General Information about Spirituality. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/spirituality/Patient/page1
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