If your parent has been recently diagnosed with cancer, perhaps mesothelioma, you are not alone. There are many things you can do to support yourself and your parent as you take a large role in their care during this difficult time.

Tips for Coping With Your Parent’s Mesothelioma Diagnosis

There is nothing worse than being told that someone you care about has cancer. It’s even more difficult if that person is your parent. Growing up, children often think of their parents as invincible, but when they get sick this ideal fades and feelings of hopelessness or anger can set in.

No matter the mesothelioma type, location or stage, you may feel very anxious and scared when you’re told of your parent’s diagnosis. You may also be confused about how exactly to move forward. These feelings are all perfectly normal and expected.

Coming to terms with your parent’s diagnosis won’t happen overnight, but there are various tools and resources you can use to help both yourself and your parent adjust to this new normal.

1. Learn About Your Parent’s Diagnosis

Learn everything there is to know about your parent’s mesothelioma cell type, disease stage and possible treatment side effects. The more you know, the less anxious you may feel about the unknown.

While researching your parents’ diagnosis, organize the information you collect. Compiling information like your parent’s medications line and treatment plan can help you and your family feel more in control, which again can reduce anxiousness and fear.

2. Let Others Help

The worst thing you can do is absorb all of the responsibility of your parent’s diagnosis. If you have siblings, talk to them about how you can all support your parent. But remember that everyone copes with grief and loss differently, so don’t take offense when someone reduces their participation in your parent’s care.

Additionally, between getting your parent to and from medical appointments, keeping track of their medications and helping them make treatment decisions, your personal life may fall by the wayside.

Ask your partner, friends or neighbors to help pay bills, do daily chores, pick your kids up from school, water your plants or look after your pets while you help your parent.

3. Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario

Thinking about the worst outcome of your parent’s diagnosis can be extremely difficult. But in some cases, planning ahead can further reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

Make sure you include other family members in the conversation. Opening up the discussion may help others come to terms with your parents’ diagnosis and create therapeutic dialogue.

4. Establish Open Lines of Communication

Ensure you and your parent prioritize open communication about your unique emotions, needs and fears. Fluid communication can help reduce tension and irritability throughout the course of treatment, reducing the stress of the already difficult situation.

You or your parent may not be able to talk about the diagnosis comfortably as it may bring up strong emotions. In this case, it may be a good idea to find a professional therapist or group to help the two of you voice your feelings and concerns moving forward.

5. Talk About Your New Roles

Before your parent’s diagnosis, they most likely took care of you and prioritized your needs to some extent.

With a cancer diagnosis, parent-child roles usually reverse, with children caring for and worrying about the needs of their parents.

This role reversal can feel very uncomfortable if not discussed. To reduce uneasiness, talk to your parent and family members about the new roles and responsibilities that come with this diagnosis.

6. Let Your Parent Maintain Some Control

It is important that your parent still feels in control and independent throughout their treatment. When a person loses their sense of control, it can bring further feelings of helplessness and fear on top of the intense emotions that come with coping with a serious medical condition.

As you support your parent with their diagnosis, try to let them make as many decisions as possible, give them lots of options and let them have their personal space when needed.

7. Remind Your Parents That They Are Still Needed and Loved

Try to take some breaks from all the cancer discussion and introduce some fun and laughter to your interactions.

Remind your parent that they aren’t just a cancer patient or a burden. They are still a valuable and integral member of your family that you need and love.

There will be many challenges ahead of you if your parent has been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma. But among these challenges can be moments of clarity and hope. Going through this type of experience can bring you closer to your loved ones and help you understand the true meaning of life and what is genuinely important.

View Author and Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute, "What to do when your parent has cancer." Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/When-Your-Parent-Has-Cancer.pdf. Accessed on March 16, 2108.
  2. Canadian Cancer Society, "Helping your parents cope." Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-journey/living-with-cancer/coping-within-a-family/parents/?region=on. Accessed on March 16, 2018.
  3. The Good Men Project, "5 Things No One Tells You When Your Mother Has Cancer." Retrieved from: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/5-things-no-one-tells-you-when-your-mother-has-cancer-dg/. Accessed on March 16, 2018.

Last modified: September 1, 2018