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How Best to Help a Loved One with Mesothelioma

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is a devastating experience for both the patient and the people who are in his immediate world. The condition is rare as compared to other, better-known forms of cancer, and unfortunately the outlook is grim. Though medical science and researchers continue to search for a cure for this challenging disease, the best that they have been able to do at this point has been to extend the survival rate of many victims of the disease.

Though mesothelioma is a terminal illness that does not mean that those around the patient need to give up on them or that there is nothing to be done. There are a number of ways that the people who love and care for a mesothelioma patient can react and respond that will be appreciated. Though it is often difficult to know exactly what to say and do in a difficult or sad situation, kindness is always the best possible answer, and the list of things that can be done to make incremental improvements in the quality of life of a cancer patient is a long one.

Whether the patient has been newly diagnosed or has been struggling with the disease for months, whether they are currently undergoing chemotherapy or are facing an invasive surgical procedure that is going to put them in the hospital or flat on their back for a while, there are things that they need. But despite this, it is important to remember that the one thing that a cancer patient is least likely to do is to ask for help, so asking them what you can do for them is not likely to get a satisfactory response. People feel guilty about asking for things, and do not want to consider themselves a burden. They are also struggling with enough decisions in the course of their illness, so even though it may seem small to you, it may be exhausting to them to try to come up with ideas on how you can be of assistance.

Rather than asking the patient what they need or want, use your own imagination and try to come up with things that are universally appealing and that you would enjoy or appreciate yourself. By offering assistance or providing some kind of service or benefit you are being truly helpful, as well as thoughtful, and there’s nothing like the element of surprise to bring a smile where there was none before.

If you are looking for some ideas for things that would be appreciated by a mesothelioma patient or his family, here is a short list to get you started. After reading these suggestions you will likely start thinking of many others on your own.

  • Food: Even if the mesothelioma patient is unable to eat as a result of the treatments that they are receiving or because of the illness itself, their family members and caretakers still do need to keep their strength up. Cooking a meal or stopping by a popular take-out place and bringing them food enough to cover them for a meal or two is a tremendous help. If you are the organizing type you can look into setting up a meal calendar that others in the mesothelioma patient’s community can sign up for. MealBaby is a popular choice, and so is HelpingHands, which also allows people to sign up to do chores and errands among other things.
  • Gift Cards: Following along the same thought process, when you give the family of the mesothelioma patient gift cards to local restaurants or even to the local pharmacy or supermarket you enable them to buy essentials as well as the things that are to their taste while at the same time reducing some of their financial burden.
  • Vacations: Whether you are a frequent flier who has racked up lots of airline miles that you can donate or are the owner of a condo in an appealing resort area, offering to give the patient and his loved ones the opportunity to get away from the world of cancer treatments is extremely considerate and will be very much appreciated.
  • Services: There are a number of home services that the patient may have provided for their family or that their family members simply no longer have time to do. Whether it handyman chores around the house or hiring a cleaning service to come and look after the dusting and vacuuming, when you provide the family with a service then you are giving them the gift of time, which is the most valuable thing of all for a mesothelioma patient.
  • Subscriptions: Whether to a magazine, Netflix or Audible.com, purchasing a monthly subscription is extremely inexpensive but can provide unlimited hours of entertainment and distraction.

Page edited by Dave Foster

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.

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