Cancer patients are not the only ones affected by their diagnosis; family members and close friends can be impacted as well. One of the best ways for patients and their families to cope with the many emotions and challenges that go hand-in-hand with fighting cancer is to face the fight together. The following tips may help you to help someone you love:
Cancer patients need to know that the people they love have their back during this trying time, even if those family members are also going through their own emotional struggles. Communication is especially critical. A mesothelioma patient may want to talk about the illness or discuss treatment options or may just need to chat about ordinary things. Family members can be supportive by being available, honest, and present with their loved one. Let them know that they are not alone in their fight.
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, patients and families often need to gather information about their treatment options quickly. Dividing up the job of research among several willing family members can make the job easier, ease the burden on the patient, and let more people feel as though they are involved. Look for reliable websites and other recommended information sources for recent research, investigational therapies, clinical trial opportunities, and alternative options. Cancer survivors can also be a rich source of both information and encouragement. The National Cancer Institute recommends assigning a single “point person” to serve as the recipient of the information gathered and discuss it with the patient.
Family members can also help by researching and gathering information on treatment costs, financial support available, insurance, home care, and local support groups.
Help Find A Doctor
Even when patients like and trust their doctor, it is commonplace to seek a second opinion, especially with rare cancers such as mesothelioma. Many doctors have never seen a case before and welcome the opportunity to get other experts involved in the decision-making process. With a little time and research, family members can help patients find and access the right doctor or hospital for their individual situation. Sometimes the best doctor for a certain kind of cancer is outside the immediate area.
Assist With Chores
Real life does not stop just because a person is going through cancer treatment. Chances are, there are still meals to prepare, cleaning to do, errands to run, and bills to pay. Offering to take some of these tasks on themselves is an easy way for family members to help support their loved one while giving them time and space to concentrate on healing. Note: sometimes being involved in the ordinary tasks of daily life can help life feel more “normal” for a cancer patient during a strange and stressful time. Family members should always ask patients what tasks they would rather not do before they assume responsibility themselves.
Be A Second Set Of Ears
Mesothelioma treatment is typically complex and multifaceted. Having a family member along at appointments helps ensure that the patient will not miss anything their doctor tells them. The National Cancer Institute recommends that a family member take notes during appointments and keep records of tests, doctor visits, and treatments. This is especially valuable as treatment progresses since some cancer drugs and therapies have an impact on the patient’s ability to concentrate and remember.
Act As A Go-Between
Mesothelioma patients with many friends may find themselves inundated with gifts, cards, visits, and offers to help. While this can sound like a good problem to have, it can also be exhausting and stressful at a time when the patient may just need to rest. Having a single family member charged with updating friends on the patient’s illness, receiving gifts when the patient is resting or unwell, and writing thank-you notes takes the pressure off the patient. Some families set up a cooler outside the door to receive food gifts and establish websites to provide regular treatment updates for interested friends and distant family.
Offer Respect And Patience
While family members can help with research and weigh in on treatment-related decisions, it is important to respect the fact that the ultimate decision-making responsibility lies with the patient. Finally, cancer treatment can be stressful and confusing and it is not uncommon for patients to experience mood swings. In some cases, the treatments themselves can trigger changes in mood or personality. Well-informed and caring family members can support their loved one through even the worst days with patience and good humor.