After the diagnosis: Caring for a loved one with advanced cancer

A diagnosis of cancer is difficult to accept. Malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure is especially difficult, as it usually proves to be lethal within a year. But the denial, grief and psychological shock that may follow a diagnosis apply to all forms of cancer, whether caused by asbestos exposure or not.

For family members, you’re now in a position where you’re going to have to start caring for your loved one in a way you hoped they would never need. The range of emotions alone is potentially paralyzing.

Here are a few tips on caregiving for someone with advanced cancer.

Acknowledge your feelings

The emotions that follow a cancer diagnosis often include denial, grief and despair. This is perfectly normal. It’s best to acknowledge it, rather than trying to always be upbeat.

To be sure, it’s important to hopeful. But counselors and therapists generally encourage acceptance of things you can’t change.

Caring for yourself is equally important

From the moment your loved one received the news, you have focused so much energy on supporting them, but it is equally important to take care of yourself as well. There is no way to know exactly how long you will be fighting this battle alongside your loved one. If you become burned out, that fight will only get more difficult. Taking care of yourself is not a sign of weakness, it’s what will give you the strength to keep going.

Take time away

It may seem impossible to leave your post, but taking time away is critical for caregivers, even if it’s only for a few hours. Some insurance providers can help you coordinate respite care for your loved one while you get some time away. If your insurance doesn’t cover respite care, think about friends and family who might be able to step in to help.

Reaching out to the community for support

After all of the appointments, the hospital is probably the last place you want to be, but it might be the best resource for support. Most hospitals that treat patients with mesothelioma and other cancers, have support groups for caregivers.

These are people who know what you’re going through first hand. They understand what you’re trying to do in a way other people may not comprehend. They can also be a resource when you have questions.

Staying vigilant

It’s important to educate yourself about the disease your loved one has so that you can be vigilant about what to expect. For example, as the disease progresses there may be changes in personality, sleep patterns and appetite.

Remaining vigilant and learning about your loved one’s condition will help you notice important changes as they occur. This will allow you to respond in a timely and informed manner.

Moving forward

The weight of what you’re processing is immense, but remember: you are not alone. Taking advantage of the resources around you so that you can care for yourself and your loved one will make all the difference as you move ahead.

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