Mesothelioma Patients May Benefit from Having Hobbies

Pear jam with sliced pear on a wooden table

Dad was always an outgoing person with many hobbies.

He enjoyed water skiing, meticulously managing our lawn and pool, and traveling. When mesothelioma took a toll on his body, it also interfered with his leisure activities.

Not being able to do some of the things he had always loved impacted my dad’s emotional well-being. He felt hopeless.

As a psychology and counseling student, I can completely understand the emotions my father was experiencing. Life had never offered him a dull moment — until he got cancer.

His social life took a devastating blow, and we could all see the impact.

Emotional Benefits of Hobbies

At an appointment with the oncologist, the doctor expressed some concerns about Dad’s mental well-being. Dad told the doctor he was feeling hopeless because of his inability to do all of the things he once enjoyed. He felt deep sadness about the situation.

Dad was feeling the impact of mesothelioma on his body and mind.

The doctor told him he should think about taking up a new hobby. He said having a new hobby would keep him active, which might help him feel better emotionally. In addition, the doctor said it might help Dad get his mind off the treatments and financial problems he was dealing with.

Iron Chef Rick

Eating had become a struggle for Dad during chemotherapy. Suddenly he couldn’t tolerate many of the foods he once enjoyed. Oddly, it was a strange craving for pear jam that sent him on a mission to explore a new hobby.

No one expected Dad’s adventure into the world of culinary arts. On the rare occasion he took to the kitchen, the results were usually disastrous. He made a mean tuna salad, but he couldn’t cook much of anything besides that.

Because no store in the Greater Cincinnati area carried pear preserves, my father decided to learn how to make his own handcrafted jams and jellies. If we couldn’t buy something for him to eat at the store, why not make it at home?

While I must admit it was strange seeing my dad explore the kitchen, it was nice to see him busy. He found a new passion, and soon hundreds of little jars occupied every square inch of counter space.

Shifting Focus Away from Mesothelioma

Dad’s improved emotional state allowed him to explore other hobbies he hadn’t considered before. When he felt up to it, he played cards with friends and family. He enjoyed spending time with them, and I could tell it kept his mind off his health problems.

He started reading more and listening to radio talk shows during the day. He’d lean back in his recliner, a book cradled in his lap, with the kitchen radio blaring.

At night, our family took watching TV to a whole new level. Instead of Dad silently watching his “Matlock” reruns alone, we started watching game shows together. “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” became nightly tournaments.

Some of the simplest things had an entirely different significance now. We weren’t just sharing space and killing time. We were making memories.

Keeping his mind busy with new hobbies seemed to shift his focus away from mesothelioma. He truly enjoyed his new endeavors, and it lifted his spirits out of the rut his diagnosis had dug.

Hobbies Have Numerous Benefits

Countless articles on the web tout the physical and emotional benefits of hobbies. But when people find themselves battling mesothelioma, participating in activities they have always enjoyed often proves to be difficult.

Despite the challenges, shifting gears and finding a new hobby can be beneficial for people fighting cancer. Keeping the mind busy with leisurely activities helps reduce stress, which can have positive health effects.

A study published in the Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology found hobbies improved the quality of life for cancer patients and even influenced survival.

“Patients who had a hobby lived longer than those who had no hobbies, and as the number of hobbies increased, the risk of death decreased,” authors of the study said.

The study involved 398 women who underwent surgery for breast cancer, and it explored a variety of factors reported to influence survival and mitigate stress caused by the disease.

Factors found to be significant predictors of survival included:

  • Having a hobby
  • Number of hobbies
  • Being married
  • Number of female children
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption

While the findings don’t necessarily apply to all cancers, they do demonstrate that hobbies have significant benefits beyond just passing time.

The study authors said having a hobby can provide opportunities for social interaction that reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation. My father’s battle with mesothelioma also stirred these difficult emotions, and I could see that his hobbies truly helped him manage.

My dad’s diagnosis prevented him from doing some of the activities he once loved, but he had no problem finding new hobbies he was capable of doing. His hobbies kept him active, and he found them physically and mentally rewarding.

I am not sure if the hobbies played a role in Dad’s survival. What I do know is they breathed new life into him, and most definitely put a smile back on his face.

  1. Anderson, C. (2015, April 23). Hobbies Reduce Stress Just as Well as Exercise. Retrieved from http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/hobbies-reduce-stress-just-well-exercise
  2. Tominaga, K. et al. (1997, August 7). Family Environment, Hobbies and Habits as Psychosocial Predictors of Survival for Surgically Treated Patients with Breast Cancer. Retrieved from http://jjco.oxfordjournals.org/content/28/1/36.full
  3. Zimmerman, E. (2007, December 2). Hobbies Are Rich in Psychic Rewards. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/jobs/02career.html?_r=1

Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.

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