The Importance of Family when Dealing with a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Family after a diagnosis of cancer

On the day my husband, Brian, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, everything changed. I forgot all about the little things that had once seemed so important and came to understand that nothing was more important to me than the love of my husband and my family.

When I was no longer able to take Brian’s life for granted, I realized that I could not take anyone’s life for granted, including that of my family. This made me appreciate them even more.

The Whole Family is Affected

Brian’s diagnosis came as a shock not only to Brian and to me, but to every member of our family.

His short prognosis of three to nine months made it even worse, and we were all grieving. My main concern was for Brian; our families’ concern was for the both of us.

Brian’s decision to continue living in Exmouth, some 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) away from Perth, did not help. Airfares to Exmouth were very expensive, and it was too far to drive. Because of this, no one knew when they would be able to see us again, and Brian’s prognosis played heavily on everyone’s mind.

Knowing how difficult it was for me to let Brian out of my sight, I realized how hard it must have been for our family members to wave us off with the thought that they may never see Brian again.

I Really Needed My Family

Living so far away from my family at a time when I needed them most was very difficult for me. Though I found some emotional relief in the regular phone calls they made, it was no substitute for a warm hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Brian and I remained in Exmouth for 12 months before returning to Perth for the commencement of Brian’s chemotherapy treatments. Though it upset Brian to leave Exmouth and his fishing trips behind, I found relief in the knowledge that I would soon have the support I so badly needed.

We purchased a house within close proximity of our children and enjoyed the diversion of setting up our new home and garden to our liking. We spent many happy hours going to nurseries and selecting plants for the garden beds and also for the pergola, which created a lot of pleasure for Brian and was his favorite place to go.

How good it was for the both of us to see our family regularly! I reveled in the company of my children and grandchildren and promised myself that I would never place myself so far away from them again.

How My Family Helped Me

Just having my family nearby and knowing that they would be there if I needed them was a huge comfort, but it wasn’t long before I needed their physical help as well.

Wanting nothing more than to help us, my family took on anything that was needed. All I had to do was ask.

One of the things I had been worried about was driving Brian to the hospital for his chemotherapy treatments, because I did not have experience driving in the city. Thankfully, Brian’s sister, Pat, offered to drive us to and from the hospital whenever it was needed, which was a huge relief. Her company at these trying times was also very much appreciated.

Another chore I was pleased to relinquish was the upkeep of our lawns and gardens. Our son, Clint, stepped in to do this for me, and I was grateful for the extra time this allowed for me to spend with Brian.

Washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning — all of the things that we women do every day without thinking — can become a huge burden when you are caring for a loved one with mesothelioma. I really appreciated the many times our loving daughters, Michelle and Julie, stepped in to alleviate me of these tasks.

Emotional Support

Practical help aside, I was still in great need of emotional support. Not wishing to place more emotional strain on my children, I held a lot of my grief inside. This was not necessary when I was with Brian’s sister; I could talk to her about anything.

Since we had both accepted that there was no cure for Brian’s mesothelioma, we talked about what was ahead, and I could express my fear about Brian dying. Her selfless support of me despite her own grief allowed for my pent-up emotions to overflow. The relief I found in Pat’s loving arms at these times could not be measured.

Pat and I were a terrific team. There were many times when we helped Brian to the car, bundled up his wheelchair and oxygen bottle and took him to places where he could still enjoy the beauty around him.

When at home, Brian loved nothing more than a good game of dice with anyone who was willing. His mind was still sharp, and he managed to win more often than not.

Sometimes all I wanted was to be alone with Brian, and Pat and my family respected this. There came a time, however, when we sensed the end was near. Not wanting to be alone with Brian when he died, I made up a roster so that a member of the family was with me at all times.

Thankfully, I was not alone when Brian died; our three children and his beloved sister, Pat, were right beside me.

I will forever be grateful to Pat and to my family, who, despite their own grief, were there to support me during the most difficult and saddest time of my life.

There is an old saying that goes, “There is nothing quite like family.”

For me, there have never been truer words spoken.

Sharing Your Journey with Your Family

If you are caring for a loved one with mesothelioma, here are some helpful hints in regard to sharing this journey with your family:

  • Don’t underestimate the love and support your family can give you.
  • Reach out to your family for help when you need it. They will be waiting for you to ask.
  • Find a member of the family who you can talk to about your feelings. They will not judge you.
  • Don’t hold back your tears. Your family will be there to comfort you.
  • Don’t try to do it all on your own. Your family will come to stand beside you.
  • Remember that your family is grieving too. Give them a hug when they need it.
  • Tell your family that you love them and are grateful for their support.

Take care. And please leave me a comment on Facebook.


Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net

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