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Emotional and Physical Wellness – Living with Mesothelioma

Wellness is a state of good health, and while it may seem contradictory for those with mesothelioma, all  patients can achieve it. It is something to strive for, a way to actively make positive choices, far 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.

Improving your wellness means much more than simply getting the right treatment for mesothelioma. It 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.

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Mesothelioma and Mental Health

Mental and emotional health suffer during a physical illness like mesothelioma. The diagnosis itself can cause depression, anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions. Choosing treatment options, making end-of-life decisions, and other important choices are stressful. 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 alternatives 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 improve your mental and 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 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 tell you what to eat for optimal nutrition and can help you plan a diet that works around treatment side effects like nausea. A physical therapist can get you started on safe, appropriate strength training or cardio. Beginner or restorative yoga classes are also good options.

Alternative Therapies

Mesothelioma patients can choose from many complementary and alternative, or CAM, treatments. While none of them are substitutes for traditional medical treatment for cancer, many are proven to support wellness by helping patients feel better. 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. In the past, cancer treatment focused solely on shrinking and eliminating tumors, but now modern medical practitioners understand the importance of including palliative care. This refers to any treatment not aimed directly at the cancer itself, but rather at the symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment, so patients feel better.

Palliative care takes many forms and helps 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. But it also means using complementary and alternative medicine to boost energy, improve sleep, increase mobility, and boost overall quality of life. Palliative care may also include social, emotional, and spiritual support as well as care for mental health.

Social Support

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. 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 possible.

Loved ones who are not fighting cancer cannot give all the social support you need. Many cancer patients find help in 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 add spirit and optimism to a patient’s life in spite of their battle with 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 longer 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.

Page edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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