People deal with and react to having cancer in different ways. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to behave or feel regarding this disease and it is easily forgotten that partners, family and friends will need support as well.
Initial response, not only from the patient, is often disbelief…”There must be a mistake! The test results must be wrong!”, followed by questions on cures, care and ‘anything that you can do for me’ issues. Shock sets in.
Naturally the patient will be afraid and unsure about his future. Though they may not show these reactions outwardly, they almost certainly will be thinking about them. Don’t assume that just because they appear ‘brave’ on the outside that they are ‘taking it well’.
Some patients will find it easier to talk with family and friends about their future than others do. Doing this may help the patient themselves come to terms with the diagnosis. Conversely, there are those that find it difficult to talk about it to anyone. It that is the case then let them be. The patient has the right to be firm on the issue, in the short term anyway.
On the other side of the coin, friends and relatives may appear to be denying the diagnosis, changing the subject and playing down the patient’s worries and anxiety during conversations. Perhaps its a coping mechanism for some people. Nevertheless, the patient should confront them about these responses; they may be hurtful and it isn’t going to help the patient if he/she wishes to discuss the matter.
Anger will almost certainly show itself in one way or another. Often anger is aimed at those closest to the patient and the medical staff treating them. Patients should not feel guilty about being angry and irritable. It is aimed at the illness and not others. It might be difficult, but the patient could explain this to them, or show them relevant leaflets.
If the patient believes that your mesothelioma was caused by an employer and exposure to asbestos, they may feel resentment towards them. They could contact and or join a group that has been set up to deal with such issues. The patient may feel some relief through this strategy and there may even be some legal claim to be instigated.
Some patients may want to be left alone for a period to ‘sort themselves out’ but friends and relatives may find this a difficult period as they naturally want to help. The patient could reassure them that they will discuss the issues when they are ready.
Strong emotions are to be expected and dealt with. For both patient, friends and relatives.