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The Impact of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis on Caregivers and Loved Ones

One definition of a caregiver is someone who assists a loved one or friend during the treatment of their illness. Assistance with mundane tasks like grocery shopping, meal preparation, and attending physician appointments are all part of care. Likewise, it could mean comforting someone spiritually or emotionally.

A major illness or diagnosis like mesothelioma impacts the patient, loved ones, and their community. Mesothelioma and its treatment can require a wide range of adjustments in the patient’s daily routine, and with these changes come financial and emotional reactions that can be taxing on loved ones.

Keeping these factors in mind, this article will discuss the impact of a mesothelioma diagnosis on caregivers and family members in different categories.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the protective lining of the lungs or abdomen after asbestos exposure. Malignant mesothelioma has a dismal 5-year survival rate and an average life expectancy of around 12-21 months from diagnosis. With a tailored combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, a mesothelioma specialist may be able to improve a patient’s prognosis.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate

The percentage of patients who survive a particular length of time after being diagnosed with mesothelioma is known as the mesothelioma survival rate. There is good news, however. About 10% of people with malignant mesothelioma can still survive after five years. Researchers typically analyze groups of patients with malignant mesothelioma and determine mesothelioma survival rates after diagnosis or therapy has begun. Below are the factors that affect the mesothelioma survival rate:

Impact of Mesothelioma Diagnosis on Loved Ones

1. Spouses

The spouse or partner of a mesothelioma patient is generally the member of the family who suffers the most from the disease. They may experience strong feelings like grief, fear, or anger as a result of the illness, and these emotions can impact the relationship.

No two couples have the same reaction. While some couples may find that challenges of illness and treatment strengthen their bond and bring them closer together, others can experience a strain on their relationship.

Often, a mesothelioma patient’s primary emotional and practical support source comes from their partner. They might assist with daily physical tasks or be there emotionally. When a partner’s health is affected by mesothelioma, it may become necessary to make changes in the relationship to ensure the patient’s comfort. When roles and duties shift, it can be overwhelming for both the patient and their spouse, who may experience new emotions like guilt or burden.

Sexual compatibility and romantic closeness may also suffer when one partner has mesothelioma. Side effects from mesothelioma treatments, such as decreased libido, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, or depression can hurt an intimate relationship. Anxiety and tension between the couple may increase due to this, making it harder to talk and resolve the issues.

2. Children

Young children may find it especially challenging to deal with the stress of a parent’s mesothelioma diagnosis since they may be unable to grasp the full scope of the situation and its repercussions. Open communication with kids is crucial for making them feel included and ensuring they get the gist of what’s happening.

News of this scale can cause profound behavioral changes in youngsters. A teenager may experience anger or withdraw from social activities, whereas a younger child may become overly attached or impulsive. A child who has to care for a parent with mesothelioma can find it challenging, especially if they suddenly have to handle all other familial responsibilities due to their parent’s illness.

3. Parents

The patient’s parents may also be affected by the mesothelioma diagnosis if they live with them and rely on them for support. It may become necessary to transfer the patient’s caregiving responsibilities to other family members or a care home during treatment.

Parents of patients may also be forced to quit their jobs and prioritize treatment. After the initial diagnosis, they may exhibit depressive behaviors, such as persistent sadness, pessimism, hopelessness, guilt, helplessness, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, fatigue, insomnia, or sleepiness, and constantly worry about losing their child.

4. Friendships

Friends can be a lifeline when dealing with a serious illness like mesothelioma. However, a major illness can impact friendship in various ways. When unable to deal with the news of a diagnosis, some friends may distance themselves from the patient or stop hanging out altogether.

Some friends may think that the patient needs their rest and therefore not visit them as often as they did before. Likewise, some friends may avoid talking to the patient because of the fear of saying something wrong.  

5. Community

The community may also feel the effects of a loved one’s mesothelioma battle. There is a widespread lack of first-hand knowledge about terminal diseases. Most people feel awkward or unsure about what to do or say to the patient.

The news that a loved one is battling a serious illness can send shockwaves through the entire community. It may negatively impact people who are already dealing with grief and loss. Others might feel inadequate to help due to their own busy lives and several responsibilities.

Some people in the patient’s life could also experience anxiety, rage, or fear and begin acting differently toward the patient. Some people also struggle with feelings of guilt over a loved one getting sick while they continue living their lives.

Conclusion

Communication with the carers must be open and constant. Friends and neighbors may avoid talking to the patient, which can make the person battling cancer feel alone in their struggle.

It’s important for both the patient and the loved ones to be honest and upfront about problems and concerns they may have. Caregivers should also keep in mind that they have a life beyond their responsibility and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty when engaging in social and community engagements as well.

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