The stress and mental anguish that come with a mesothelioma diagnosis can be very difficult to deal with.
A mesothelioma diagnosis immediately places the patient in a state of anxiety. Some patients find that the stress and anxiety surrounding the disease and its eventual outcome is the most difficult part of coping and can lead to severe depression and strained relationships with family and friends.. Learning to deal with your emotional reaction to the disease is therefore very important.
Common emotional reactions to a diagnosis include:
|Shock or disbelief||You may feel like you’re in a fog, unable to grasp the reality of the situation. Some recently-diagnosed meso patients refuse to talk about the diagnosis while others appear totally devoid of emotion.|
|Why me?||This is almost always the first question newly diagnosed mesothelioma victims ask themselves and others. To many, the diagnosis feels like a punishment and causes them to question their faith. If you’re close to a clergyperson, this is a good time to set up a meeting with him or her.|
|Guilt or Blame||You may begin to blame yourself for the disease, questioning why you allowed yourself to work a job that exposed them to asbestos.|
|Fear||Just about anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness will no doubt be afraid of what lies ahead. The best way to combat fear is with knowledge. Ask your doctor what to expect in the future– just knowing what’s ahead will help assuage some fears.|
|Anger||It’s natural to be angry about developing mesothelioma, but anger can be difficult to deal with and is often directed at the wrong people. Try to remember that while it’s okay to be angry, you should strive not to direct your anger at family or friends.|
|Depression||Many newly diagnosed cancer patients slip into some form of depression, either minor or severe which can have consequences for treatment and quality of life. If you’re feeling depressed, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about treatment options, including medication.|
|Denial||It’s normal to be uncomfortable discussing your diagnosis, but some people totally deny that they’ve been diagnosed with cancer, thinking the doctor must be mistaken. While denial is a common initial reaction, it can become a problem if it persists, and may require professional intervention.|
Counseling for Terminally Ill Patients
Preparing for death is something everyone eventually faces, but terminally ill patients often have to reckon with these issues much sooner than they’d hoped. Most people will need some sort of emotional or spiritual guidance to get to a point where they can accept – as well as possible – the inevitable. If you’re facing a terminal diagnosis, counseling can help ease your fears as the end of life approaches, providing for a more peaceful passing.
There are a variety of counseling options available to you. In many cases, especially if the patient is being treated at a cancer center that advocates care by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, a psychologist or psychiatrist will be part of your medical team. The counselor will probably be willing to also meet with your family, but it’s usually a good idea for to attend the first few sessions on your own before asking family members to join you.
Chances are your doctor or oncologist can recommend a good licensed psychologist. Many specialize in working with terminally ill patients and can help you sort through the issues that accompany a diagnosis.
These doctors are similar to psychologists except for the fact that they are permitted to prescribe medications for mental health issues.
Most hospitals with cancer care units offer special oncology social workers that can help lessen stress, not only through counseling but also by assisting in care planning and social services.
For many terminal patients, spiritual counseling is also paramount. Even if you don’t have a place of worship, most hospitals and hospice programs have a chaplain on staff to help you.
Asking for Help
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Even the strongest individual will need help in dealing with the stress of a mesothelioma diagnosis and with all the things that follow, including treatments, hospitalization, reduced quality of life, and strained relationships with family and friends. A qualified mental health provider can help you navigate these issues.