Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.


When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it has a “ripple effect” that impacts far more than just that one patient. Family, friends, and even co-workers will feel the effects of this devastating diagnosis.

But, with mesothelioma as well as all other frightening diagnoses, the support of family and friends can make a world of difference to the patient faced with the challenge of battling this aggressive cancer.

Here are a few ways family members can be helpful and involved in their loved one’s mesothelioma treatment:

Be present. Whether the patient is going in for a quick office procedure or for a more involved treatment requiring a lengthy hospital stay, make a commitment to be there throughout the entire process. For the patient about to undergo a procedure, it can be hugely comforting to know that his or her loved one is just steps away.

Be inclusive. While mesothelioma treatment can be a long and time-consuming ordeal, everyday life continues. Make a point to include a patient in family activities and milestone events. Even if he or she is physically unable to attend a relative’s special birthday party, for example, you can make him feel included via a Skype session, or through sharing photos of the event afterward.

Be proactive. Once a patient begins treatment, extra help around the house becomes a necessity. Don’t wait to be asked to help. Every time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a few essential items for the patient. Offer to fill prescriptions at the drug store. Arrange for a weekly cleaning service or, if money is tight, do a bit of tidying up every time you visit. Each of these actions takes little effort yet helps a patient to feel cared for in ways that go beyond the medical.

Finally, recognize that many cancer patients can find it hard to ask for help. It can be easier for a patient to accept help when he is made to understand that allowing others to help — in any number of ways small and large — makes them feel that they are doing something useful, and contributing in their own way to a patient’s recovery.

The National Cancer Institute’s Taking Time: Support for People with Cancer offers great
advice for how family members and caregivers can support a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Next article in this series: “Make Your Home as Comfortable as Possible”