No one wants to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, but there is hope. Researchers continue to make incremental progress with new treatments, and there are a variety of resources available to help you and your loved ones through the toughest parts of treatment.
These resources range from those that are immediately available, such as your treatment team, to others you may need help to access. They address everything from your medical and financial needs to your emotional well-being.
Your treatment team
Immediately after the diagnosis, you’ll want to know the prognosis. How much has the cancer spread? What are the treatment options? What will they mean for you and your loved ones? What are the likely outcomes?
Your treatment team are literally your first line of defense and your guides along your path forward. Accordingly, it’s critical to work with a skilled group of providers. Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, many providers may have limited experience—or no experience—dealing with it.
Studies have shown that a knowledgeable treatment team is the key indicator of successful treatment. People were more likely to get helpful surgeries when they were willing to travel.
Clinical trials and novel treatments
Even the best treatment teams are limited by the tools they have available to them. When it comes to mesothelioma, this often means treatment teams focus on surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, there may be other options.
Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to treat mesothelioma. When their newer treatments pass several key tests, they might advance into clinical trials. These trials need volunteers to test the treatments.
The National Cancer Institute lists many of the mesothelioma trials that want volunteers. You can ask your treatment team if any of the trials might be appropriate.
Medical treatment can be expensive, so how can patients and their families cover the expense? Mesothelioma victims often have several options:
- Your health insurance can cover a portion of your expenses
- A number of businesses created trust funds to reimburse the people they exposed to asbestos
- You have the right to sue any business that knowingly exposed you to asbestos
It is not always necessary to sue to win compensation for your damages, but the option exists. Mesothelioma cases tie back to asbestos exposure, and businesses knew asbestos was toxic long before they stopped using it. Their decisions to continue to expose people to asbestos may make them liable for your suffering.
Health insurance rarely covers enough. If you want to pursue additional funds, you can talk to an attorney experienced with mesothelioma cases.
Caregivers and daily routines
Caregivers offer vital support. Mesothelioma, like other cancers, takes a terrible toll on the body. So, too, does the treatment for mesothelioma. This makes it hard, if not impossible, for victims to continue their daily routines uninterrupted.
Caregivers encourage victims on their better days and step in to help out on the lower days. In fact, as the American Cancer Society notes, caregivers are more or less part of a patient’s treatment team. In addition to helping with household chores, caregivers often help patients get through their treatment:
- Administering medications
- Tracking and reporting side effects
- Transporting patients to appointments
- Keeping other friends and family informed of a patient’s health and progress
- Helping patients and providers decide if a treatment is working
Of course, since caregivers often come from a patient’s closest friends and family members, their help tends to go far beyond medical. Caregivers provide crucial emotional and spiritual support. They make themselves available when the victim wants support, and they learn to give space when the victim needs it.
The fact is that caregivers do so much, they often find themselves overwhelmed. It’s important for caregivers to find their own support networks. They want to reserve time and space for their own relaxation and peace of mind.
Counseling and support groups
Even when mesothelioma victims have the support of loving and well-intentioned caregivers, they can feel alone. People who haven’t experienced mesothelioma or other cancers can’t always relate to those who have. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. In these cases, it can help to meet with one of the support groups available to mesothelioma victims.
There are even online forums where people can chat about issues such as their struggles with treatment. This is often helpful for rare cancers like mesothelioma when it may be harder to find other survivors near you.
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that mesothelioma is hard. Many mesothelioma victims worked for years in jobs that wanted them to be tough. They were in the military, shipbuilders, pipefitters, steel workers, construction workers, miners and auto mechanics. They were tough.
Even though these people will still have their better days, mesothelioma may take them to new lows that are hard to process. Mental health counseling can help people find a new perspective and new ways to cope with the hard times that fall outside their control.
You are not alone
When you or a loved one receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, it signals some big changes down the road. These changes can be frightening, but you don’t have to face them alone.
There are resources available to help you and your loved ones find the best way forward. You will want to take advantage of these resources and keep asking what else is available. Your treatment team and attorney may be able to help connect you with additional resources.