Finding hope for the future when you’re facing a terminal diagnosis, such as mesothelioma, is challenging for some people and natural for others.
Some people seem to possess boundless hope that penetrates every aspect of their life and being. They appear as naturally hopeful people. When they get diagnosed with cancer, they hope for the best and use that hope as fuel to move forward.
Other people take a more calculated approach to hope that considers all possible outcomes, including the best and the worst. When they get diagnosed with cancer, they often experience a tempered sense of hope.
Positives and negatives are inherent in both of these approaches to hope. Understanding what hope is and how it affects your state of mind can help cancer patients define what hope means to them and their families.
What Exactly Is Hope?
The prevailing definition of hope among the medical community originated in a 1985 issue of the medical journal Nursing Clinics of North America: “Hope is a confident yet uncertain expectation of achieving a future good, which according to the hoping person is realistically possible and personally significant.”
This realistic definition of hope does not encompass the kind of magical hope cancer patients are commonly encouraged to find.
“Hope for the best!” is a phrase people with cancer often hear from family and friends.
Is the best possible outcome — a cure — realistic for every cancer patient to hope for? Could strongly hoping for a cure lead some people to a sort of blind optimism that distorts reality and delays preparation for all possible outcomes?
Dr. Jerome Groopman, chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and chair of medicine at Harvard Medical School, believes there is a middle ground.
“Somewhere lies the middle ground, upon which an understanding of the most likely outcomes is balanced by the opportunity to hope for a successful treatment, and the courage to endure the side effects that will be an inherent part of this treatment,” Groopman said in his New York Times bestseller, “The Anatomy of Hope.”
Finding Hope When Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
Hoping for successful mesothelioma treatment is realistically possible.
Each successful treatment buys more time for a mesothelioma patient. The amount of time varies greatly and depends upon factors such as a patient’s age and overall health in addition to the cancer’s stage and whether it grows slow or fast.
Some people live for years with mesothelioma and a select few live longer than a decade.
“Not that hope is sufficient for recovery, and not that strong religious convictions will triumph over disease, rather that hope and belief in the possibility of a cure, can give patients the courage to endure the severe side effects and complications inherent to the aggressive treatments required to effect a cure,” Groopman said.
Lorraine Kember served as the primary caregiver for her husband, Brian, when he developed mesothelioma. Kember believes hope was essential to move forward and was not in conflict with acceptance of his prognosis.
“He accepted his prognosis but refused to live the remainder of his days without hope. Life for him was far more than mere existence,” Kember said.
People with mesothelioma can realistically hope for a number of positive outcomes, including:
- Good response to treatment
- Outliving the average mesothelioma survival rate
- Good quality of life
- A life with little to no pain
- Quality time with family and friends
- As much time as possible to do things you enjoy
- A sense of acceptance around all potential outcomes
- More effective treatments for mesothelioma in the future
Many people with cancer say they finally started living wholeheartedly because of their cancer diagnosis. Making meaning and finding purpose in the life you’ve lived leads to a sense of satisfaction that isn’t found in a life that solely pursues happiness.
During the moments or days when hope seems low, remind yourself of the meaning and purpose you’ve found in your life. That may involve your family legacy and loving relationships, your career and community service, or the people you’ve helped throughout your lifetime.
The feelings of hope you possess are deeply personal and up to you to define. Every person with mesothelioma has much to hope for, and sharing that hope with loved ones brings you all closer.