Living with Mesothelioma - Part Three: Coping with the News of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Coping with a diagnosis of mesothelioma is the topic of this third edition in the three-part series, ‘Living with Mesothelioma,’ and examines the process that unfolds while coming to terms with the reality of being stricken by terminal cancer.

When you have been given a diagnosis of mesothelioma, it is normal to feel many emotions simultaneously or possibly none at all. Many people report experiencing a void of any feeling, commonly referred to as a state of shock. Others say that they are instantly overwhelmed with feelings—ranging from grief to disbelief. In either case, the process of coming to terms with the diagnosis is a process that extends far beyond that initial moment of reception.

Denial is one of the five stages of grief, and many individuals facing a terminal diagnosis report experiencing it. It is both natural and normal to have feelings of disbelief or doubt when the mind tries to reconcile a concept that it has not previously addressed. Most people do not expect to find out that they have cancer; therefore a diagnosis of mesothelioma is likely difficult to process. An initial reaction of denying reality is sometimes the psyche’s way of protecting an individual from fear and other painful emotions that facing mortality can trigger.

Overcoming denial is a process that generally unfolds rather organically, as the person has time to mentally digest the news and overcome some of the initial shock it has caused. Certainly, any feelings of skepticism ought not be invalidated, however; seeking a second medical opinion is usually encouraged and can help the patient come to a place of acceptance.

Understanding a diagnosis of mesothelioma and its impact is also important to the acceptance process. Patients should ask any and all questions they have, both of their doctor(s) and of a qualified mesothelioma lawyer – who can help secure a settlement to help cover the costs associated with treatment.

Treatments should be researched and understood, as well. Many patients say they feel a comforting sense of returned control, once they begin making decisions regarding treatment and other necessary undertakings.

While depression is not uncommon after a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, it is also not unavoidable. Holistic measures, such as sticking to a healthy diet and getting adequate exercise, can work wonders. Seeing a therapist—especially one trained in grief counseling—is an excellent way to effectively process some of the difficult emotions that are bound to arise.

Many people report that finding or strengthening their spirituality is the key to coping with a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Whether that means joining a fellowship group, simply spending more time involved in church activities or even taking a pilgrimage to a sacred site of worship—gaining a new sense of one’s place in the grand scheme of the universe can be a monumentally therapeutic experience while facing adversary.

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