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Often times, when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, knowing what you can do to help and be supportive is not easy. A mesothelioma diagnosis, in particular, can be sudden and life-changing. Whether it’s finding the right thing to say, or figuring out what you can offer, you’ll want to be ready to help your loved one as best you can. We’ve put together some of the best things you can do for someone with mesothelioma that go beyond simply gift giving to offer genuine care and support.
1. Know What Not to Say or Ask
Many of the most common phrases used to address a cancer patient are some of the ones he or she wants to hear the least. Some questions and comments that seem harmless to you might serve as negative reminders or triggers for the patient. For example, questions about mortality such as “what are your chances?” or “how long do you have?” bring up a topic and thoughts that many patients try to avoid. Another phrase to avoid: “It’s going to be okay.” Often a filler for empty space following a patient opening up about what he or she is going through, an empty promise of wellness doesn’t carry as much support as you might intend. Instead, just be a good listener. Your loved one will understand if you don’t always have a response or answer.
2. Recognize That Time is a Gift and Offer Yours
A patient in treatment for mesothelioma will benefit much more from the gift of a friend or family member’s time than he or she might from another bouquet of sympathy flowers. Your time can be gifted in many ways, including offering to not only chauffeur between doctor’s offices, but also wait with the patient during appointments and even attend those that allow loved ones to be present. Offering to run errands such as picking up prescription medication and grocery shopping for the patient will also help take care of everyday tasks he or she might be stressed about. Time spent simply sitting and listening to your loved one will also mean more to them than you can imagine.
3. Do Your Research
Mesothelioma is a serious and complicated cancer. With only one cause and, currently, no cure; it is a cancer like few others. It will benefit not only your patient, but also you as a friend and possibly a caregiver, to know as much about the disease as possible. Knowledge about mesothelioma will help you avoid asking basic questions the patient has probably answered many times already as well as open up the floor for deeper conversation and understanding between the two of you. When he or she has less to explain, your loved one will be able to spend more time talking about things that make him or her happy and distracted from the cancer.
4. Help Spread Awareness
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is surprisingly still not banned in the United States. Many people have never even heard of mesothelioma and, if they have, are unaware of the risk factors and their personal level of risk. The best thing you can do to support not only someone you know suffering from mesothelioma, but thousands of others who have been and will be diagnosed in the future, is to help spread awareness. The more people know about the dangers of asbestos, the more people will help the fight to eradicate it in the U.S.. Research ways to get involved in the fight against asbestos that you and your loved one with mesothelioma can do together. Activities to fight asbestos and mesothelioma will give the patient hope.
5. Design a Personalized Gift
Sympathy cards and flowers are never the wrong option when it comes to giving a gift to an ill loved one, but a gift personally tailored to specific needs will make him or her feel special. Mesothelioma often requires both surgery and chemotherapy or radiation. The lungs are most commonly affected by the disease and surgery can impact the entire chest and throat region. Consider the medical specifics of mesothelioma as well as personal characteristics of the patient when designing your gift. Fill a basket with nice teas or throat lozenges, hand-knit blankets or hats, and unique headscarves for potential treatment side effects. Also consider books and music gifts in his or her favorite genres that you can include. A personalized gift that includes items that will offer relief during treatment will be greatly appreciated.