A Guide for Loved Ones Affected by Asbestos: Part I - Facing the Difficult Truth about Mesothelioma and Life Expectancy
When your family member or loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, life expectancy and any plan for the future are both cut suddenly and drastically short. The tragic reality is that mesothelioma is a terminal diagnosis. Although treatment may prolong the inevitable, even that is not a guarantee. Facing such shocking and devastating news is an arduous experience for both the patient and his or her family and friends. Many people find themselves struggling to support the victim when they themselves feel like they are falling apart.
For a patient with mesothelioma, life expectancy can vary. From the time of diagnosis, many people live for only a few months, while others survive for several years. For most, an average of four to 18 months is a reasonable projection. Sadly, statistics show that only about 10 percent of victims survive for five years after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Just like the victim, loved ones experience the grief process when faced with impending loss. It is important to allow this process to unfold naturally, rather than attempting to deny or suppress it. Research and colloquial wisdom show that repressed emotions inevitably work their way out regardless and often in a far more destructive manifestation than the original experience.
While you likely will feel the need to be strong for your loved one, you should not neglect yourself and will need an outlet for expressing your feelings and concerns about the future. This outlet may be found through confiding in a close friend or perhaps in a formal therapeutic setting, working with a professional who is trained to help people cope with difficult emotions. Grief counseling can be particularly effective, not just in the aftermath of a loss but also in anticipation of one.
The tragedy of reduced mesothelioma life expectancy often forces people to realize that there are many things they had planned but will never get to experience with their loved one. This may be a time to do some of those things—a task that serves as a healthy distraction from the fear and pain of the current situation and also helps you both live in the present moment.
It is important to bear in mind that the physical effects of both mesothelioma treatment and the illness itself can be significant. Be aware that your family member or loved one may not be able to do all of the things he or she was once able, and you should not allow a mesothelioma patient to push him or herself to the point of exhaustion.
You should also recognize that guilt about your family member or loved one’s mesothelioma and life expectancy loss is not uncommon. Many people feel ashamed or remorseful that their loved one is dying, while they will go on. This may be especially true when both parties have experienced the same or similar exposure to asbestos but only one falls ill.