While any cancer diagnosis is extraordinarily difficult, it is particularly traumatic to be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. However, you should not lose hope. Although the average life expectancy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is a year to 18 months, there are many who now live from two to five years and even longer. From our experience representing mesothelioma clients for over 30 years, our firm Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman has gained some insight into how our clients have lived their lives after diagnosis. Here are three important insights we would like to share.
Continue to Live Your Life to the Fullest
Many clients and their families tell us that their feelings range from shock to anger and denial, many finally come to a sense of acceptance and finding a “new normal.” Today, some doctors believe that living with mesothelioma or any form of cancer should be viewed as living with a chronic illness, just as some people live with diabetes, arthritis or other chronic conditions. Mrs. G-T, a client living with mesothelioma, shared her attitude with us:
“I have to live my life and I won’t let [the mesothelioma] take over me. I have my grandchildren and my children. They all count on me. If you let it get you down, you won’t live a good life. I feel I’ve been dealt this and I live with it.”
Mrs. G-T went on to tell us that her greatest joy was taking all eight of her grandchildren on a trip to Disneyland. She recounted how much fun both she and her husband had with them.
Coordinate the Scheduling of Your Treatments
Undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and possibly surgery are not easy. Scheduling appointments may seem like a simple task but with multiple physicians and facilities involved, that task may become overwhelming. If you have someone who can help make the appointments for you and coordinate them to limit the number of trips back and forth to the medical center, that may help to ease some of the burden.
Some cancer centers have a patient navigator whose job is to coordinate your appointments and to see that things like medical insurance issues are handled. One wife of a mesothelioma client told us that she made her husband’s appointments so that they could make one trip to the medical center. They planned to stay for much of the day, and her husband took his reading material. She got him his gourmet coffee to enjoy to begin his day. Seemingly small things can make a big difference in a patient’s outlook and attitude.
Focus on Everyday Activities
During this time, it is important to focus on the things you like to do. Some have found normalcy in going to work, even for shortened hours. If you have a hobby like gardening or if you play a sport like golf, by all means, partake in the activity whenever you feel you can. Many take trips to see friends or relatives or go to places they’ve always wanted to go to. Another wife said her husband visited his relatives who he had seen occasionally over the years. Her husband’s hobby was cooking, and he continued to make wonderful dishes.
We have observed many living with mesothelioma have an amazingly strong human spirit. Carrying on with your every day routine in as usual a fashion as possible is helpful. It is important to celebrate and enjoy the good days. Be present in the moment. Above all else, a positive, fighting spirit of living life intensely is key.