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Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, lung cancer or an asbestos-related disease?

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Coping as a friend or family member

When someone you love faces a deadly disease like malignant mesothelioma, it is very frightening for them – and for you. Don’t discount your own fear and anxiety. Whether you are a caregiver, a child, a sibling, a spouse, or a close friend of a person with malignant mesothelioma, your loved one’s illness will also affect your life.

Whether you’re responsible for a mesothelioma patient’s day-to-day care or are providing support and a shoulder to lean on long-distance, you are helping to care for your loved one. Caring for them can be a source of satisfaction. It can also be a source of stress.

It’s important to take care of yourself so that you will be there when your loved one needs you. It’s easy to get caught up in meeting someone else’s needs and forget about your own. It is important to look out for your own health – physical, emotional and spiritual – during this stressful time.

Just as there are support groups for those fighting mesothelioma cancer, there are support groups for caregivers and others as well. You may also wish to seek counseling from a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker. Sadness, depression, anger, worry, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, grief – your feelings may run the gamut. Give yourself permission to have these feelings and don’t be afraid to share them. Talking to others who are caring for loved ones with cancer or other serious diseases can often help you find ways to cope with your loved one’s illness and help you recognize that you are not alone.

Many of the organizations that help cancer patients cope with their illness also help their loved ones.

Don’t be afraid to ask others to help you with day-to-day tasks. Particularly if you are your loved one’s primary caregiver, recognize that you need a break from time to time. This can be particularly hard if the patient you’re caring for feels like you’re the only one he wants to help him, but realize that others can help as well. If you become too overwhelmed, your ability to help will suffer. Everyone needs a break now and then and you should not feel guilty for needing some time to yourself.

There are specific things you may not have time for that you can ask others to help you with. Things like looking up information on the Internet, making phone calls, running errands, driving your loved one to the doctor, making dinner, doing laundry, or spending time with your loved one so you can get out and do something else are all things that a friend, family member or neighbor can help with. Next time someone asks if they can help, say “yes” and give them a specific job.

Some nonprofit groups, places of worship and other agencies provide volunteers who can help as well. You can also pay others to help. Hospice services and other agencies can provide volunteers to run errands or provide respite care for caregivers, that is, they can send someone to stay with the patient in order to give you a chance to take a break.

The stress of facing mesothelioma is enormous. While facing this challenge together can help bring some people closer, it can also cause a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety and disruption that may cause problems in a family or couple’s relationship with each other. This is not unusual. Don’t be afraid to seek family or marriage counseling if issues arise. This can be helpful for everyone concerned.

In caring for someone, you may need to cut back on outside interests and hobbies – but don’t cut them all out. Doing something you love can help you face the difficulties inherent in caring for a loved one. Seeing you come home from an activity with a smile on your face may even help cheer up your loved one.

Long-distance issues

As the child or far-away friend of a patient with mesothelioma, you may feel that writing, calling, emailing and visiting your loved one isn’t enough. You may want to find other ways to help. You can make phone calls and search the internet to help find treatment options and gather information about what is available at cancer treatment centers and through clinical trials. Perhaps your parents are not as familiar with the internet as you are. The internet is an excellent source of information on the disease. What better way to spend time web-surfing than to help find information that can help your parent explore treatment options?

Writing to Congress to urge their support of research into mesothelioma and helping your loved one fight back against the companies that exposed him or her to asbestos can help give you a sense of purpose while doing something important for the one you love. Even if you live far away from the person who has mesothelioma, these are positive ways you can help and find an outlet for your feelings as well.

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