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A diagnosis of mesothelioma presents physical and financial challenges but also emotional struggles. The wrong and right things to say to somebody battling mesothelioma can be challenging to know without experience. These tips from people who have had to cope with mesothelioma can help loved ones provide positive support.
Helpful Things to Say to Someone with Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a devastating diagnosis and illness. One of the best things you can do to help someone with mesothelioma is to listen. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. A person with cancer might hesitate to burden others, so reach out.
1. I’m sorry this is happening to you.
This is a simple statement that means so much. It acknowledges their situation and expresses that you care. It’s tempting to try to do or say something more concrete, to try to help fix the situation. This sentiment expresses that you know you are helpless but still care.
2. I’m here for you.
There’s an old phrase that says that 90% of success lies in just showing up, and that is particularly true when it comes to helping a person struggling with mesothelioma or any cancer or serious illness.
Being there for somebody can mean a lot of different things. It might be sitting and listening when they want to talk about their fears, and it may be vacuuming their house for them or bringing over a pot of nourishing soup.
Little things mean a lot, but the fact that you take the time out of your own schedule to be there for them means more than anything else.
3. What Can I Do to Help You?
Asking before doing is important. Not everyone wants help, and some patients might want different types of assistance. Be considerate and give them the ability to say yes or no. Don’t assume they will be grateful for your unrequested help.
You can also ask if they need help with specific things. An open-ended question might be too much if they are very sick. Come up with a list of chores you can do or items you can buy for them. They can then choose what would be most useful and impactful.
What Not to Say to Someone with Mesothelioma
It’s not easy talking to someone with a terminal cancer like mesothelioma. Knowing how sick they are and that the cancer is likely fatal can make you very uncomfortable. This is normal. Despite your best efforts, you’re bound to say something wrong.
To be more considerate and helpful, be aware of things you should avoid saying to someone with a cancer diagnosis:
1. Everything Happens for a Reason.
This meaningless phrase does nothing to help a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. In fact, it can imply that their illness is a result of something they have done wrong earlier in their life.
Mesothelioma is a disease that afflicts people after being exposed to asbestos. It is a result of them doing nothing more than working to support themselves and their families. Instead of implying that cancer or their limited future makes some kind of sense, ask how you can be of help. Listen to what they have to say and what they are feeling.
2. Have you tried this (treatment, specialist, cancer center, etc…)?
Though it may be helpful for you to do some internet research to better understand what the mesothelioma patient is going to be going through, the information you have gathered does not in any way qualify you to provide a medical opinion.
Treatment protocols for mesothelioma vary based upon where the cancer is located in the body, what type of mesothelioma cell is present, and the degree to which cancer has spread.
It is also often a function of private discussions that have taken place between the patient and their physician about exactly how aggressively the patient wants to pursue treatment. Unless you have access to all of this information, it is better to simply encourage whatever decisions they have already made about treatment.
3. I was talking about you the other day to…
One thing that is essential is that you respect a mesothelioma patient’s privacy. Cancer patients often complain that once they are diagnosed, they suddenly stop being treated like a person and instead are treated as a disease.
Remember to respect their privacy and that there is a person with feelings involved. Unless they have given you specific permission to talk about their condition to a particular person, don’t talk about their treatment or prognosis.
Talking to a loved one about their diagnosis is difficult and uncomfortable, but they will appreciate your effort. Saying the wrong thing is forgivable, but never reaching out at all is not, so don’t let the discomfort hold you back. Reach out, listen, and offer whatever type of support they need and you can provide.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer and editor for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.