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Living with Mesothelioma

For many patients, receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis comes as a complete shock. It can take a while for reality to settle in. Learning everything you can about this aggressive form of cancer will help you make smarter choices and feel more in control. Your first priority, of course, is to make sure you receive the best care possible. But once you have found the right medical team and are comfortable with your treatment plan, it is time to think about how to live with the day-to-day challenges and long-term decisions ahead.

Make Your Home Comfortable and Worry-Free

Patients who are undergoing mesothelioma treatment often find it difficult to get around on their own without the help of a walker or a wheelchair. Some patients experience difficulty breathing and therefore need extra oxygen, which requires the use of a portable oxygen tank. Preparing your home before treatment begins will make it easier to use these devices if and when they become necessary. Ask a friend or family member to help you move furniture to create clear passageways throughout the house. Here are some additional steps you can take to make sure your home is safe and comfortable:

  • Add extra lighting to dim rooms or hallways. Simple plug-in nightlights are inexpensive and easy to install.
  • Rent a chair with a built-in automatic lift to make it easier to sit down and stand up on your own.
  • Place a rubber threshold ramp at each doorway. This will make it easier to go from room to room in a wheelchair.
  • Install bed rails to provide support on either side of the bed.
  • If possible, set up a bedroom on the first floor to avoid having to use stairs.
  • Make the bathroom worry-free by installing an elevated toilet seat with arm supports, adding rubber mats both inside and outside the shower, and placing a plastic chair inside the shower. (Read more about how you can make your home safe here.)

A Little Help from Your Friends

This is not the time to be a hero or to keep a stiff upper lip. When you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, think of it as a permission slip to ask for help. And you may be surprised by how many people in your life are eager to lend a hand.

When family members and friends ask how they can help you, make sure you have a list of answers for them. Making ready-to-eat meals, helping with light housework or yard work, and taking care of the grocery shopping are little ways the people who love you can make a big difference.

In addition, consider joining a support group. Studies show that patients who participate in support groups feel more hopeful. Connecting with others who understand firsthand what you are going through can help minimize the sense of isolation that can sometimes follow a mesothelioma diagnosis. There are several types of support groups, and membership is often not limited to patients only. Caregivers, family, and friends can all find a group to meet their unique needs. Some groups meet in physical locations such as churches and libraries, while others meet in chat forums online. Your medical team can recommend support groups in your area. You can find additional information through the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF).