Emotional and Physical Wellness – Living with Mesothelioma
Wellness is a state of good health, and while it may seem contradictory to living with mesothelioma, it can be a goal and an achievement for all patients. Wellness is something to strive, a way to actively make positive choices, and it goes beyond simply not having an illness. Wellness encompasses emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, as well as many alternative practices and medical treatments that can get you there.
To be concerned about your wellness means so much more than simply getting the right treatment for mesothelioma. It also means taking steps to relieve stress and anxiety, such as practicing yoga or meditation; it means getting social support from friends and family; and it means considering treatments and practices that will help you feel as physically well as possible while fighting cancer.
Mesothelioma and Mental Health
Mental and emotional health can suffer during a physical illness like mesothelioma. Just getting the diagnosis can lead to depression, anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions. Being faced with treatment options, end-of-life decisions, and other important choices is stressful. And, the physical discomfort caused by cancer and its treatments can also take a mental and emotional toll.
Mesothelioma triggers these negative feelings in most patients at some point, but some will also experience symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders. These should not be ignored, but treated with therapy, medications, and alternative therapies like meditation, massage, and support group work. Living with mesothelioma does not have to mean living with poor mental health. Your medical team needs to know what you are struggling with so they can help you find solutions for better mental an emotional wellness.
Fitness and Nutrition
It can be tempting to disregard what you eat and physical fitness to focus on what seems more important, such as undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments. However, when you live with an illness, paying attention to your lifestyle choices and nutritional and fitness needs can make a big difference in terms of overall wellness. Patients who eat balanced, healthy diets and get some degree of physical activity are in better overall health, are better able to tolerate treatment, and have better treatment outcomes.
A dietician or nutritionist can help you determine what you can and should eat for optimal nutrition and can help you plan a diet that works around treatment side effects like nausea. For fitness, a physical therapist is a great choice for a professional who can get you started on strength training or cardio in a safe way. Other good options for cancer patients are beginner or restorative yoga classes.
There are many complementary and alternative, or CAM, treatments available to mesothelioma patients. While none of them are considered substitutes for traditional medical treatment for cancer, many are proven to support wellness by helping patients feel better. For instance, acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical treatment that has been proven in studies to reduce pain, nausea, and fatigue in cancer patients. Other important alternative therapies include reiki and oncology massage.
Palliative Care and Physical Comfort
An important part of wellness is simply feeling well. That can be hard to achieve when living with mesothelioma, but it is possible to feel better. There was a time when treatment for cancer was focused solely on shrinking and eliminating tumors, but now modern medical practitioners understand the importance of including palliative care. This refers to any type of treatment that is given, not to actually battle the cancer, but to help reduce symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment, so patients feel more physically well.
Palliative care may include many different strategies and is for late-stage as well as early-stage mesothelioma patients. It could mean using traditional medicine, like painkillers to manage pain or radiation to shrink tumors that are causing discomfort. It can also mean using complementary and alternative medicine to boost energy, help patient sleep better, improve mobility, and generally improve overall quality of life. Palliative care may also include social, emotional, and spiritual support as well as care for mental health.
Another important aspect of wellness is social. People are naturally social but when you get sick you may find that your social life changes in troubling ways. You may not be able to go to work or spend time with friends like you used to do. Having the support of at least a handful of your closest friends and family is crucial for your overall wellness as you fight cancer. Let these people help you and be there just to listen or have fun with you in whatever way is most feasible.
Loved ones who are not fighting cancer cannot necessarily provide all the social support you need. Many cancer patients find it beneficial to join support groups with other cancer patients. This helps them to share with and learn from others who know exactly what they are going through. This kind of support can provide a powerful feeling of wellness in spite of battling cancer.
Faith and Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness is another important component of overall wellness. Many cancer patients struggle with faith and spirituality, but those who are able to address their faith reap many benefits. It does not have to be religious faith or belief, but some kind of spirituality or belief in a higher power has been proven to give cancer patients important wellness benefits. These include better physical and mental health, better social support and wellness, and even better survival times.
Wellness and mesothelioma may not seem to go hand in hand, but you can focus on both healing from cancer physically and achieving optimal wellness at the same time. Focusing on your treatment and making better choices about mental health, physical health, nutrition, fitness, socializing, spirituality, and alternative therapies can help you achieve greater wellness, and along with it an improved quality of life. Wellness is a choice and it means making active decisions to be and feel well, even when facing such a terrible and devastating disease as mesothelioma.
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