Life with a mesothelioma diagnosis can present many challenges. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a daily routine that suits you and the symptoms you’re coping with.
You are likely to feel a range of emotions about having mesothelioma. See Emotions and Cancer to learn more about coping with anxiety, fear, anger and other feelings. You may also have practical concerns, such as how to make a compensation claim for asbestos exposure and what to do about work (see Cancer, Work and You).
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Finding support
- Looking after yourself
- Relationships with others
- Sexuality, intimacy and fertility
- Ongoing management
- What if pleural mesothelioma becomes active again?
Dealing with feelings of sadness
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning, or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Your local Cancer Council may also run a counselling program.
The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. To order a fact sheet, call 1300 22 4636 or go to beyondblue.org.au. You can also connect with a counsellor over the phone, online or by email.
Looking after yourself
A mesothelioma diagnosis will cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your well-being as much as possible.
Nutrition – Healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can help you manage special dietary needs or eating problems, and choose the best foods for your situation.
Call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or see Nutrition and Cancer, for more on this.
Staying active – Physical activity often helps to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.
Cancer Council’s Exercise for People Living with Cancer booklet provides more information about the benefits of exercise, and outlines simple exercises that you may want to try – you can download a copy from this page.
Complementary therapies – These therapies are used with conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful.
Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying, as some may not be safe or evidence-based.
For more information, call 13 11 20, or see Complementary Therapies.
Relationships with others
Having cancer can affect your relationships with family and friends. This may be because cancer is stressful and tiring, or as a result of changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life.
Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways – for example, they may be overly positive, play down fears, or keep their distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.
Sexuality, intimacy and fertility
Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self-confidence, and if you have a partner. Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.
If you are able to have sex, you may be advised to use contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the
precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.
As symptom management and treatment for mesothelioma are likely to be ongoing, you will have regular check-ups to monitor your health. Everyone is different, so your doctor will decide how often you need check-ups, but it’s usually every 6–8 weeks.
During check-up appointments, your doctor will do a physical examination and may also arrange a CT scan to see how active the mesothelioma is. What other tests you have, and who you see and where, will depend on your health and the type of treatment you’ve had. If you live a long way from the hospital
If you live a long way from the hospital or treatment centre, you may be able to arrange for some of the tests to be done by your GP or the specialist who referred you for major treatment.
If you notice any change in your symptoms between appointments or you experience side effects from treatment, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until the next scheduled appointment.