Cancer & Caregiving

Positive Thinking Can Help You Cope with a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Written By:
Jul 10, 2013
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Written By: Lorraine Kember,
July 10, 2013

Thinking back over the life I shared with my husband, Brian, I was almost always the one who found a solution to any problem that came along.

This was most often due to my tenacity and the fact that by nature I am an optimist who believes that anything can be found if you really look for it, and anything can be achieved if you try hard enough.

I am also a person who doesn’t give in easily and will go to any lengths to find a solution to a problem.

Over the 32 years of my marriage to Brian, there were a number of problems that came along. The larger ones tested my optimism to the core, but with resilience and sheer determination, I was able to overcome them all.

Not surprisingly, when Brian was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given three to nine months to live, I did not accept his prognosis. My track record of solving problems in the past led me to believe that there must be a doctor somewhere in the world who could cure Brian of mesothelioma, and all I had to do was find him.

Searching for Answers

Turning to the Internet, I began an exhaustive search for anything I could find out about mesothelioma. Sadly, my search did not reward me with the solution I had hoped for. Instead, I learned that there was no known cure for this terrible disease and that it would eventually take Brian’s life.

Accepting that there was nothing that I could do to change this, was devastating, and for the first time in my life, I felt completely helpless.

Fortunately, I did not feel helpless for long, as my tenacious nature kicked in and helped me to realize that although I could not stop Brian from dying, I could help him to ‘live’ for as long as he was granted. It was then that I put my pain and symptom management routine for him into place.

Knowing that I could make a difference to the quality of his life took away my feelings of helplessness and gave me strength.

Living in expectation of his death, however, was overwhelming, and there were times when I felt like I was drowning in my grief.

On the advice of my doctor, I began keeping a personal diary, and it was through this that I came to understand my inner voice and thought processes.

Positive Thinking

Prior to Brian becoming ill, I had never imagined my thoughts to be anything other than constant chatter (inner conversations) in my head.

It was only when I began to write my thoughts down that I became aware of the fact that I had both a positive and a negative inner voice.

This was a powerful revelation and was the turning point of how I managed my anticipatory grief.

I instinctively knew that my negative (despondent) thoughts were feelings that needed to be expressed, and I made sure to write them all down into my diary.

My negative thoughts (inner voice) included any feelings I had that made me feel miserable, including anger, fear and sorrow.

Allowing myself to express and acknowledge these thoughts and feelings through my diary helped me to release them and tune into my positive thoughts (inner voice).

Reading this, it would be perfectly understandable for you to ask the question:

How can there be any positive thoughts when you are dealing with the terminal illness of a loved one?

To explain, I will clarify how our thoughts can help us to cope with our emotions as we care for our loved ones.

Focus on the Good Thoughts Rather than the Sad Thoughts

There is no denying that sad thoughts will come often when a loved one has a terminal illness like mesothelioma. But if we focus on those sad thoughts all of the time, we cannot function properly and this will make it impossible for us to care for them as well as we wish to.

Consistent sad (negative) thoughts also make it impossible for us to care for ourselves.

I became aware of this when I expressed the thought that I did not want to live without Brian.

Living in expectation of his death was the worst torture, and I was constantly asking myself, How am I going to endure the pain of losing Brian? How will I find the strength to carry on? Who can help me cope with this terrible sadness?

Thankfully, there came a time when I was able to find an answer to these questions. And the answer was that the only person who could get me through this was me.

I came to realize that although others could come to stand beside me, it was my inner voice that would determine my actions. Had I continued to tune solely into my negative inner voice, I would have sunk so deep into depression that I may never have found my way out.

My realization of this is captured in the following entry taken from my diary:

It has occurred to me that if I don’t change my mental attitude, I will become ill.  I do want to live; I have a great deal to live for through my children and grandchildren. I am still young, and I will survive this if I allow myself to. I must start looking after myself as well as Brian, if I am to remain healthy.

On the same day, I wrote the following words in my dairy.

I will be okay, if I let myself.

To help me achieve this, I began to change how I wrote in my diary. Though I still continued to write down my sad (negative) thoughts, I tried to end my notes with a positive thought as often as I could, and I found that this always made me feel a lot better.

The positive notes I wrote included sentences like:

I am so glad that I am able to keep Brian out of pain.

I am determined to enjoy this precious time with Brian.

I thank the goodness out there for giving me the strength to carry on.

I also wrote a list of positive thoughts (affirmations) and read them aloud each day.

My daily affirmations were:

  • I will be okay if I let myself.
  • I will do my best to ease the burden for Brian.
  • I will do my best to remain positive for the both of us.
  • I will make each day as peaceful and as happy as I can.
  • I will count my blessings for each day we share together.
  • I will take care of my mind and my body and believe that I have plenty of reasons for living.
  • I will imagine my immune system working hard to keep me healthy.
  • I will survive and carry on.
  • I will embrace life and live it to the fullest for the remainder of my days.

There is no doubt in my mind that positive thinking helped me a great deal, both during Brian’s illness and after his death.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my affirmations were not only helpful, they also turned out to be prophetic (predictive).

Thankfully, I was able to ease Brian’s burden. The pain and symptom management routine I put into place helped to improve the quality of his life, and I have found much peace in this knowledge.

Despite the terrible anguish of losing Brian, I did survive and carry on.

Knowing how precious life is and how quick it can be taken away from us, I grab whatever life has to offer me with both hands, and I do most certainly live each day to the fullest.

Take care.

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