Sunday June 4, 2017, was National Cancer Survivor Day. This day is set aside each year to “demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality.”
When I see a familiar face cruising the hospital in a wheelchair or walking with a family member it gives me great joy. Remembering back to the days of their hospitalization and the unsure days that they faced, the turnaround is great to experience for the patient and the family.
This week I spoke to several mesothelioma patients. The first was a woman who was in her seventies, who had many complications, but is home with her daughter. She was thrilled and had a huge smile. She admitted that she was still unsteady on her feet, but she had no regret about her treatment. She was well supported by her grown children who continue to accompany her to her medical visits.
The next patient was a gentleman who has been out three years. His hospitalization was also complicated and lengthy. He appeared physically well, but he did not appear to be happy. He has a supportive wife and family, but is weighed down by the fear of the disease. We talked about his life and how he filled his days and what he did with his time. He is currently enrolled in a clinical trial and has felt good about that. He spends time with his grandchildren. When asked if he keeps in touch with anyone from the mesothelioma world he said no. The one person he had a relationship with has died.
I went home thinking of him and his family and what could help him. Treatment for mesothelioma can cause fear, anxiety, depression, and at the least uncertainty. The emotional toll of his hospitalization seems to have lingered with him. It would be helpful for him to join a support group to share his experiences with others who have also gone through similar experiences. His wife would also benefit from having someone to talk to as well as him.
Another patient was also back. He returns regularly for a thoracentesis. Once every two months or so he returns and has the procedure. He appears to be happy and is grateful for the treatment and the relief it provides for his breathing.
Dealing with a devastating diagnosis of mesothelioma brings a host of emotions. Everyone reacts differently and handles it as they see fit. Despite the progress in the physical treatment of mesothelioma, the psychological treatments need to be a part of the healing process.
There are many resources available to help live with cancer. There are support services including support groups, on line groups, and disease related groups. There are articles on the internet from cancer survivors and what worked for them. If you need help with this part of your journey you are not alone. “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” Les Brown.