Navigate the changes to your daily life that come with mesothelioma.
Even if you do everything you can to maintain a normal lifestyle, you’ll find that some things will inevitably change. Maintaining a sense of normalcy and self esteem can be extremely difficult when you’re dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Your ability to keep working will depend on a variety of factors, chiefly the seriousness of your illness. If your doctor clears you to keep working, you’ll need to address a few issues with your employer and/or co-workers.
Discuss your disease with your employer and what your limitations might be because of it, especially during treatment. Most employers are empathetic and may offer to help adjust your hours, obtain coverage for sick days, or otherwise make it easier for you to remain at work as long as possible.
Visit your Human Resources department to determine your financial rights during this time and to review medical insurance coverage. Remember, you cannot be fired or laid off because you have cancer. If that happens, contact your union representative or seek legal advice immediately.
At first, you may decide not to tell your coworkers about your disease. However, absences, changes in appearance and other side effects may tip them off that something is amiss. You may choose to explain the situation rather than allow rumors to float around the workplace.
If you choose not to work, that’s okay. Many see this as much-needed time that can be spent with family and friends. You might also decide to find a work-from-home business or a work option other than your “regular” job.
Dealing with Daily Life
Simply dealing with the tasks of everyday life, like mowing the lawn or going to the store, can be a chore. You may also find that people, including friends and family, treat you differently.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.
If you’re an avid traveler, a diagnosis of mesothelioma will limit your trips, especially as the disease progresses. For example, air travel can be difficult for the mesothelioma sufferer due to the changes in air pressure in the cabin. Flying should especially be avoided after any kind of surgical procedure involving the lungs. Long flights where little movement is possible can also cause you to develop blood clots.
Mesothelioma patients should NEVER travel to parts of the world where health concerns exist, especially if your immune system is compromised by treatments such as chemotherapy. You might also have trouble tolerating some of the immunizations necessary for travel to certain regions.
If you do travel, be aware that you might need a doctor’s note for some of your medications, particularly opiates, which can be mistaken for illegal drugs. It’s always a good idea to contact your doctor before booking any trip.
Appearance often plays a big role in maintaining normalcy. Mesothelioma treatment options, such as chemotherapy, can cause hair loss and other noticeable side effects. Some cancer patients feel better when they treat themselves to new clothes that fit, a stylish wig, or anything that will simply make them feel better about themselves.
Pets are wonderful, comforting friends when you’re sick, but they can become a burden once caring for them isn’t so easy. You might need to ask a friend or family member to care for your pet, which may involve letting your pet live somewhere else other than your home. Be sure the person caring for your pet schedules visits for you and the animal.
If you don’t have anyone who can help care for your pet and you’re having difficulty taking care of them yourself, you may have to make the difficult decision to find a new home for them Remember, your pet needs love and daily care to survive and be happy. Consider what’s best for him or her.
Mesothelioma can place great financial strain on your family, especially if you’re forced to leave your job. If this happens, talk to your employer or a human resources representative at your company. They can inform you as to your financial rights in connection with health benefits, sick pay, leave of absence, or disability pay.
You should contact a financial planner to determine how to best balance your estate and make the most of the money you’ve already saved. In addition, lawyers can help you deal with end-of-life financial issues, such as wills and inheritances.
Someone at your church or other religious institution may be able to offer a few hours to help you. Family and friends might be able to run errands or cook a meal for you. You may also qualify for any federally-funded programs, such as Meals on Wheels. Elderly mesothelioma patients, especially those who live alone and have no family nearby, may have especial difficulty with the practical issues of daily life. Eventually, you may need to consider in-home care or, in the end stages of the disease, hospice care.
Hospital social workers or other members of your medical team can help you find a reliable caregiver that can be with you several hours a day or live with you in your home, if necessary, and help with chores and daily care, like travel to treatments or help with medications, meals, and personal care issues like bathing. Be sure to obtain references before you hire. Your medical insurance may pay for some or all of this service.