Eight Tips for Coping with the Trauma of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Eight Tips for Coping with the Trauma of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Getting a mesothelioma diagnosis, let alone the diagnosis of a chronic and life-threatening illness. More often than not, the psychological impacts are far worse and can intensify the physical symptoms tenfold.

It can be terribly hard to come to terms with a cancer diagnosis, both for the patient and the family. What makes some kinds of cancers even more distressing is the cause behind them and knowing that there is no known cure! Mesothelioma, for instance, is a rare kind of cancer that can result from asbestos exposure, usually during service in the military or from construction materials. It can be a major struggle to accept the fact that your years of service to the country paid you off with a chronic illness or that all your hard work on the construction site led to your retirement years being the worst phase of your life.

It is okay to feel the way you are feeling, but a little guidance about how to deal with the trauma can help. The following are some tips to cope with the trauma of a mesothelioma diagnosis.

1.  ​Equip yourself with knowledge

Knowledge is power; the more you know your illness, the better you can cope with it and take the steps necessary for effective management. 

Give yourself some time to get over the shock, and then, as soon as you can, make sure you gather as much information as possible from your healthcare providers. The best source is, of course, your doctor, who can provide details about your specific case, but online resources likewww.mesotheliomahope.com can also be a great help for you to learn about the illness in general as well as any legal actions you can take such as filing for compensation.

2.  ​Practice self-care

First and foremost, remember that it is okay to feel frightened, numb, angry, confused, resentful, or uncertain. Let these feelings come and go on their own instead of trying to suppress or get rid of them.

Meanwhile, remember not to lose yourself in the trauma so much that self-care skips your mind. Don’t let your illness dictate your life and eat away at your happiness. Your daily schedule should include at least one activity that you enjoy. It need not be something fancy; it could be something as simple as spending time in nature, walking, or hosting a family get-together.

3.  ​Stick to the ‘three good things a day’ mantra

With a mesothelioma diagnosis, it might seem challenging to identify the light at the end of the bleak tunnel, but you can start somewhere by reminding yourself of just three good things that happened during the day. By doing so, you will realize that it wasn’t ‘all bad,’ even if it was more than 50% negative.

With time and practice, you will eventually develop the habit of looking at the small blessings and overlooking the bigger problems.

4.  ​Monitor your diet

It might come as a surprise how big of a role your diet can have in managing a chronic illness. Yes, it is normal to experience at least some loss in appetite in all chronic illnesses, but don’t let this affect your dietary decisions. Research shows that not only can dietary modifications help prevent chronic diseases, but they also assist with the management of such illnesses.

Some oral nutritional products and dietary supplements are used widely to help with chronic diseases, but literature now even suggests some nutraceuticals are effective in targeting specific illnesses.

For mesothelioma, doctors recommend decreasing whole-grain foods and increasing protein intake. Protein is a necessary component because tissue repair and a strong immune system are both necessary for recovery from mesothelioma. Fruits and vegetables – especially those rich in starch – are also crucial.

In order to overcome excessive weight loss, it is also recommended that you consume foods rich in healthy fats, like nuts, olive oil, and avocado.

5.  ​Learn stress-reduction techniques

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming, and it will be a big help to learn some stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Collectively, these practices – including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and hypnotherapy – are called mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. These are known to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression by increasing acceptance and compassion.

Research has proven that meditation reduces inflammation, minimizes pain, and boosts the immune system. Pain reduction, in turn, improves sleep by 30% and thereby enhances focus, emotional control, and resilience.

6.  ​Reduce the ‘ideal-real gap’

Denying the fact that your illness is a severe one and can limit your opportunities will only increase what Shatte calls the ‘ideal-real gap’, i.e., the gap between your real self and the ideal self.

According to the humanistic theory by Carl Rogers, the greater the distance between who you are and what you want to be, the higher the ‘incongruence’ and psychological ill-being. 

Hence, in light of this, you must accept the limitations that come with mesothelioma, reconcile with the facts, and re-evaluate your life goals so they are realistic and consistent with your potential. 

7.  ​Exercise self-compassion

The diagnosis is likely to leave you frustrated, vulnerable, and sometimes even ashamed. The feeling of dependency that comes with it can cause you to blame yourself and feel like a burden. Remember that the illness is not your fault, and it is a much bigger challenge for you who is actually dealing with it first-hand than those who are indirectly affected by your condition – your friends and family.

You are the victim here and don’t deserve any blame. Exercise compassion when dealing with your emotions and avoid negative self-judgment. What you are feeling shouldn’t be questioned or suppressed. Embrace yourself and your emotions, and be kind to yourself.

8.  ​Relieve yourself of the financial burden if you can

The challenges that come with a chronic illness diagnosis are more than just emotional. Fortunately, the state has made laws that protect the rights of people who have contracted a disease because of someone else’s negligence. 

In the case of mesothelioma, if some party is responsible for your asbestos exposure, you have the right to claim compensation for the losses. Avail this opportunity at the earliest possible time.

Final words

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be a tremendous blow to your otherwise happy and normal life and very challenging to deal with. Know that you are not alone, and you deserve compassion, not self-blame. Take the problem head-on by equipping yourself with knowledge. Moreover, practice self-care, look for small blessings, practice relaxation, set realistic goals, and get any financial compensation you can. These techniques cannot promise a stress-free journey, but they sure can make it much more manageable.

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Josie Smith
Josie Smith
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