Cancer & Caregiving

Communication Crucial After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Written By:
Feb. 07, 2018
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Written By: Dr. Laura Porter,
February 7, 2018
Family members holding hands

A diagnosis of mesothelioma can be devastating and have an influence on your relationships.

These relationships include immediate and extended family, close friends, casual or social contacts, co-workers and others. The impact of a cancer diagnosis can increase the stress on each of these relationships and negatively affect communication.

I know this from experience.

Open communication is the key to alleviating the stress. You may feel comfortable discussing all aspects of your life with some people but more reserved with others. Some people may want to hear all the details, and others may not.

Honest and nonjudgmental communication is critical.

It’s important to determine your level of comfort when sharing details and be aware of the comfort levels of the people listening to you. Expectations of yourself and others may need to be adjusted.

Diagnosis Affects Partners or Spouses the Most

Your spouse or partner will be the relationship most affected by your mesothelioma diagnosis.

The household responsibilities may need adjustments that could lead to stress. If you are the patient and handled most of the household duties, your spouse or partner may need to take them over. This could cause resentment on both sides.

A caregiver may feel helpless and try controlling the patient’s behavior in an effort to control something.

When I received treatment for my stage 4 metastatic colon cancer, I had a sense of control because I was “doing something,” but my partner felt helpless and scared, and tried to control things — and me.

By addressing these feelings, our relationship improved, and we became closer. Sharing our fears and expectations opened a channel we didn’t know existed.

Prepare a List for Your Loved Ones

Be specific when people ask if there is anything they can do to help. Having a list ready, with multiple items they can choose from, is a great place to start.

Whatever your list includes — yard work, meals, walking the dog or cleaning the litter box — you will be surprised what friends and family are willing to do for you.

Expressing specific tasks is easier for the doer, and it requires less energy from all involved. They also know the help they are giving is needed.

I jotted a few chores on a list I prepared for my family and friends. My cousins visited and raked my yard. My friend made a two-hour round trip to clean the litter boxes.

People cooked meals and froze them for us, and someone stayed with me daily.

Be Considerate of Others

At first, it was difficult to ask for help.

I had always been the one to support others, but it made the people helping me feel less helpless. Always consider what people are comfortable doing for you and be respectful of their limitations by giving them a few options. People want to help because it also helps them.

Hopefully, some of these tips can help you improve communication while undergoing treatment or recovering from therapies.

It’s also important to remember counseling or professional help is available if the stress becomes too uncomfortable or communication breakdowns cannot be resolved with simple conversations.

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