Getting a mesothelioma diagnosis causes an instant flood of emotions, including fear, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. And, if you aren’t careful, these negative feelings can quickly spiral into severe anxiety and even depression. That’s why it’s so important that you prioritize your mental health after a diagnosis.
Understanding Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The first step is to understand your mesothelioma diagnosis, what it is, and what it is not. By arming yourself with facts, you can have a logical and objective outlook on what’s happening inside your body.
As MesotheliomaGuide.com explains, “Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos. It forms when sharp, loose asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of either the lungs or abdomen. These fibers irritate tissue, which becomes diseased.”
Each year, 2,500 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma. There are two primary types:
- Pleural mesothelioma (accounting for 80 percent of cases)
- Peritoneal mesothelioma (accounting for 20 percent of cases)
Symptoms of mesothelioma range from chest pain and difficulty breathing to night sweats and weight loss. Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t always great. It’s highly dependent on how early the disease is diagnosed.
For those in Stage 1, life expectancy is 20 months (and surgery is an option). For those in Stage 2, life expectancy is 19 months (and surgery still remains an option for some). In Stage 3, life expectancy drops to 16 months, as the cancer is no longer localized. Surgery is rarely an option at this point, and usually involves removing a lung if it’s performed. Once a patient reaches Stage 4, life expectancy is just 11 months and the focus is on making the patient as comfortable as possible.
Seeking Medical Treatment
If you want to be emotionally healthy during your battle with mesothelioma, it starts with proactively seeking medical treatment to address the underlying disease. Find a good medical team and listen to their advice. If you think you need multiple opinions, be sure to seek out a second or third opinion. (This is your well-being, after all.)
Caring for Your Mind and Body
Once you’re certain you’re doing everything you can to address the mesothelioma diagnosis on a medical front, you can shift your attention and focus to caring for your mind and body. Here are several tips:
1. Build a Support System
Caring for your mental health when dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis begins with building a strong support system. You don’t have to face this journey alone, and having a network of individuals who understand and care about your well-being is essential.
Learn to lean on your loved ones during this time. Open up about your feelings and concerns. Encourage them to ask you open questions so that they can better understand your needs, feelings, and fears.
It’s okay to ask for help! In fact, it’s encouraged. You are not a burden to your loved ones during this time. They often want to help, but don’t always know how. By taking the lead with openness and vulnerability, you can tap into your support system and alleviate some of the stress that comes from trying to do this alone.
2. Adopt Coping Strategies
It’s helpful to have some coping strategies up your sleeve for when things get stressful or more challenging. This might include:
- Deep breathing exercises. There are literally dozens of deep breathing exercises. Do some research and find one that works for you. The goal is to calm your nervous system and reduce stress levels.
- Meditation and visualization. Take some time each day to engage in mindfulness meditation or visualization exercises to center your thoughts and gain a sense of control over your emotions.
These might be totally foreign practices to you, but that’s okay. There’s something powerful about being able to step back and put your mind in a place that’s free of distraction and fear.
3. Practice Self-Care
This is the perfect time in your life to really lean into self-care. Stop seeing it as something selfish and start viewing it as part of your healing regimen.
Self-care looks like different things to different people, but the ultimate goal is to put your mind in a place of peace. This not only provides stronger emotional balance, but it can also bring physical health benefits as well. (This includes a healthier immune system.)
Examples of self care include regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, proper hydration, adequate sleep, and engagement in creative activities like art, writing, or music.
Adding it All Up
There’s nothing easy about a mesothelioma diagnosis. But it’s important to understand the strong correlation between your mental health and physical health. By paying attention to both, you can put yourself in a stronger and healthier position. Use some of the tips highlighted in this article to get started!