Resources for Patients and their Families

Seeing-Eye Dogs

The vast majority of individuals who develop asbestos cancer are elderly individuals. These are people who worked in factories, plants, mills, and shipyards where asbestos was commonly used. Mesothelioma has a long latency period – often as long as 50 years. As a result, most victims were exposed when they were much younger, usually when they were in their 20s or 30s and working hard to raise a family.

The fact that mesothelioma cancer attacks older individuals can make treatment quite complicated due to existing co-morbidity issues that have already taken a toll on the patient’s body. Furthermore, many patients are dealing with the normal issues of aging such as poor hearing and poor eyesight. Hearing problems make communicating with medical personnel quite difficult and vision issues make it tough to get around and can make the patient feel isolated.

Help with Vision Problems

Individuals with very poor vision often depend on family members to help them get around, even in their own home. For many, this is quite frustrating, especially for those who are used to being very self-sufficient. Cancer patients with bad eyesight must further depend on family members and friends when dealing with both the challenges of poor vision and the rigors of cancer.

Perhaps that’s why many cancer patients who are legally blind or have poor eyesight have turned to the services of a seeing-eye dog, often referred to these days as a “guide dog.” A guide dog not only helps an individual walk from place to place outside the home, but is also a great help inside the home as well, and can assist a vision impaired cancer patient who may be physically weak to do simple tasks that are made harder by cancer.

Residual Benefits

Some individuals who use seeing-eye dogs have them for a long time – often up to 10 years or more. While the relatively low mesothelioma survival rate suggests that this will not be the case with mesothelioma patients and their guide dogs, the animal can indeed become like a part of the family. Those who use guide dogs note that the dog not only provides assistance to them but also comfort and companionship.

As dealing with cancer can be a lonely and depressing task, seeing-eye dogs can become quite important to those who are fortunate enough to own one. While the dog knows that his job is to protect the cancer patient from harm, the dog is also eager for play and interaction with its owner when the work day is over, just like any other dog. This can be a special time of the day for the patient who is dealing with the side effects of mesothelioma chemotherapy, mesothelioma radiation, or simply the debilitating symptoms of the disease. Petting a dog is known to reduce one’s blood pressure and create an overall feeling of well-being.

Finding a Seeing-Eye Dog

There are many organizations throughout the country that patients or their families can contact to find a guide animal. Chances are there is one not too far from where you live.

Cancer patients who need a seeing-eye dog will be required to do some training with the dog in order to determine if they are a good match. This may be a little bit of a challenge for the cancer patient, especially when they are not feeling well. However, if the guide dog agency is informed of any special circumstances, they can probably figure out a way to make it all work without putting too much stress on the patient. It’s best to call various agencies first to determine if they are willing to work with this unique scenario.

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