Understanding Your Feelings

Shock

"I can't believe it. It can't be true."

Feeling shocked is often the first reaction when mesothelioma is diagnosed. You may:

  • Feel numb and not believe what is happening
  • Be unable to express any Emotion
  • Find you can only take in small amounts of information
  • Ask the same questions or need to be told the same thing over and over again

Needing to have information repeated is a common reaction to shock. Some people may find their feelings of disbelief make talking about their illness with family and friends difficult. Others feel the urge to talk about it as a way of helping them to accept the news themselves.

Fear

"Am I going to die?" "Will I be in pain?"

The first thing people ask about having mesothelioma cancer is: "Am I going to die?" Remember – Mesothelioma patients can live for many years. Mesothelioma clinical trial provides new hope. Today many things can be done to help with any pain or discomfort or to slow the cancer down.

See also Treatments / Pain Section for more information.

Many people are worried about their treatment and whether it will be very unpleasant. Remember that research into making treatments easier to cope with, and reducing and controlling side effects have been going on for years and will continue. Stories you hear about people being treated years ago will be out of date. It is best to talk to your doctor about your treatment before relying on rumor or other incorrect information.

Denial

"There's nothing really wrong with me. I don't have mesothelioma."

Some people choose to cope with their situation by:

  • Not wanting to know anything about their mesothelioma cancer
  • Talking about it as little as Possible

If that's how you feel, tell the people around you quite firmly that, for the time being, you don't want to talk about your illness. But sometimes you may find it is the other way round. Your family and friends may:

  • Deny your illness
  • Appear to ignore the fact that you have mesothelioma
  • Play down your anxieties and symptoms
  • Deliberately change the Subject

These sorts of reactions may arise because people are frightened or embarrassed to talk about cancer, or because mesothelioma is such a rare form of cancer they do not understand what it entails. Others may feel that if they don't talk about it, they can try to pretend it isn't happening. You may, however, want them to support, you by sharing how you feel. If the reactions of others upset or hurt you:

  • Try telling them how you Feel
  • Reassure them that you know what is happening
  • Explain that talking to them about your illness will help you

Anger

Anger about your illness may be directed at:

  • Those who are closest to you
  • The doctors and nurses who are caring for you
  • The companies that made the asbestos products and knew they were dangerous
  • God, if you are religious

You don't have to feel guilty about your angry thoughts or moods. But relatives and friends don't always realize that you are not angry with them but are angry with your illness. It may help to:

  • Tell them this at a time when you are not feeling quite so angry
  • Ask them to read these pages if talking is difficult

If you find talking to your family hard, you may want to discuss this with a counselor.

Blame and Guilt

Sometimes in trying to find reasons why cancer has developed you may blame yourself or other people for your illness. This may be because you feel better if you know why something has happened.

While asbestos exposure is the trigger, many factors must coincide to cause mesothelioma cancer. Chance plays a big part. Some people are more prone to developing a mesothelioma cancer because of their genes. Also, workers and other exposed to asbestos were never informed about the dangers; so there is no way that the average person could have avoided these dangers. In addition, many experts believe a single tiny strand of asbestos is sufficient to trigger mesothelioma, which with the widespread use of asbestos, is impossible to avoid. Finally, you had to work to earn a living and provide for your family – that was not a choice. Nevertheless, it may be difficult to avoid blaming yourself, but talking about these feelings helps.

Why Me?

Having mesothelioma cancer can make you feel cross with people who are well. Why should this have happened to you and not to someone else? You may feel:

  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Bad tempered

These feelings may crop up from time to time throughout your illness and treatment. Relatives may also be angry that your illness interferes with their lives. It helps to express your feelings to discuss them openly. Bottling it up may make everyone feel upset and cross.

Leave Me Alone

There may be times during your illness when you want to be left alone to sort out your own feelings. This can be hard for family and friends who may not understand how you feel, and want to share this difficult time with you. You can make it easier for them by telling them that:

  • You don't feel like talking about your illness now, but you will talk to them when you do.
  • You still care about them even if you do not want to talk about your illness.

Depression

Depression is often triggered by a diagnosis of mesothelioma. You might not be able to think clearly or do things, or you might not want to get up in the morning. You may want to talk to your doctor or nurse who can:

  • Explain to you that these feelings are common with mesothelioma patients
  • Prescribe a course of drugs that may help you
  • Refer you to a doctor or counselor who specializes in the problems of cancer patients

It is quite common for people with cancer to feel depressed, so don't feel you are different if you need to ask for help.

Positive Thinking

One of the things that people with mesothelioma are often encouraged to do is to "be positive." But it is not that easy. Living with mesothelioma and its treatment can be frightening. There will be times when you may feel low and fear for you future.

Most people with mesothelioma cancer are frightened about how they might die and what will happen to their families if they do die. There are obviously very trying emotions, and very difficult to "just take in your stride". Friends and family, however, may advise you to think positively. It may help to remember that being positive :

  • Doesn't mean being cheerful and optimistic
  • Means recognizing some of the fearful possibilities that arise from having mesothelioma cancer

Nobody should expect you to feel good when confronting fear. Being positive and thinking positively can even include:

  • Feeling upset
  • Feeling frightened

Such feelings can be a sign of strength – and may reflect your courage in facing up to an uncertain future. Being positive may include allowing your full range of feelings to be expressed. It is, perhaps, more about being able to balance the bad with the good, and not allowing negative emotions overwhelm you.

Understanding Your Illness

Understanding your illness and its treatment will help you and your family to:

  • Do something to help yourself
  • Know what to expect

It is best to talk to someone who really knows about mesothelioma. Doctors, nurses and social workers at the major mesothelioma centers have extensive knowledge about mesothelioma.

  • Before you go to see the doctor it may help if you make a list of questions.
  • Take someone with you to remind you of what you wanted to ask and to help remember some of the answers.

Practical and Positive Tasks

When you are being treated, or recovering, you may not be able to do things you used to do. But as you begin to feel better:

  • Have a go at simple tasks
  • Gradually try to do a little more

Success will give you confidence, but, remember, be patient and try one step at a time. Most people want to improve the way they feel. Some of the ways this can be done is:

  • Planning a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Learning relaxation techniques
  • Exercising regularly

But, only do these things if you want to and only if it makes you feel better. Well-meaning friends or relatives may make all sorts of suggestions about what you should do. You don''t, however, have to make any sudden or drastic changes to your lifestyle. If you have recently been diagnosed and treated, you may feel you have had enough change for a while. If you decide to exercise:

  • Build up slowly
  • Set realistic targets
  • Base the type of exercise, how strenuous it is and how often you do it, on what you are used to and how well you feel

Many people strongly recommend joining a support group. While there may not be a support group specifically for mesothelioma patients in your area, joining a support group for cancer patients will work.

Following is a list of what patients say really worked for them:

  • Making lists of questions to ask at the mesothelioma hospital.
  • Ask about sources of information and support when you go to the hospital. You may not be told what is available unless you do.
  • Try not to dwell on your condition.
  • Make the most of what you have - do the things you've often put off before.
  • Don't try a new diet without finding out as much as you can about it.

If you are at home more than you were, get a dog! You'll get daily exercise and meet a lot of people when taking him out for walks.

Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm offers some words of advice.