Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with no definitive cure, and it often strikes during retirement after a lifetime of occupational exposure to toxic asbestos.
Although the discovery of mesothelioma typically comes with a grim cancer prognosis, recent advancements in therapy have raised the hopes of many families, producing survivors who live well beyond the one-year norm.
There also are things that a patient can do to help the plan work.
Don’t Stop Living
This was the advice given to mesothelioma survivor Don Berlin of northeast Ohio by his thoracic surgeon more than six years ago. Berlin will turn 80 in December. He is frustrated by his slower pace but refuses to sit still very long.
He and his wife recently bought a small, fixer-upper winter home in Florida, where he has a list of projects he wants to complete, and a small boat he expects to use a lot more.
“I’ve been lucky, and I pray a lot, but being active must be helping, too,” he said. “My wife says I’m still a workaholic. I didn’t really change my lifestyle that much. I just do things slower. Doctors have told me that something else will probably get me eventually before the mesothelioma does.”
Join a Support Group
This is important with any cancer, but particularly important with a rare cancer such as mesothelioma. You will relate to others in the same situation. It can be an in-person sit down or a monthly call-in group.
People in similar situations can sometimes understand what you are going through better than a doctor or a nurse. Not many people, even many oncologists, understand the intricacies of mesothelioma. Joining a support group will help you mentally and physically.
Don’t underestimate what a healthy diet can do.
There are foods that feed the cancer, and foods that discourage the cancer. Know what you are putting into your body. Adequate nutrition is essential to fighting off cancer, particularly when going through aggressive treatment. Although your appetite may wane, it’s vital to keep fueling your body.
Contact a dietitian to answer any questions you may have. Nutritional supplements also may be useful. A good diet is equally important for the primary cancer caregiver. The better a caregiver feels; the better care he or she will provide.
Many long-term mesothelioma survivors say the power of prayer is real. They would have given up long before without a strong faith in God.
“I’ve been blessed,” said Virginia Beach, a 10-year mesothelioma survivor living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is a pastor’s daughter and the widowed wife of a pastor. She is 88 years old. “I pray often, and I believe it works.”
Find a daily exercise routine that works for you — and stick with it. Force yourself to do it.
It might be as simple as walking to the mailbox and back, or walking down the grocery store aisles. It could be riding a stationary bike or a stroll around the block. It might be easier to just sit, especially when you are feeling bad physically, but it will help to do something physical.