When someone receives a Mesothelioma diagnosis, many changes occur in their life. One of these is their identity as they are now a cancer patient. With this new identity, a new lifestyle also ensues. The new lifestyle may include chemotherapy, recovering from surgery, taking new medications and leading what seems to be an entirely different life. What consumes the bulk of a patient’s new lifestyle is often travel to and from their appointments. Fortunately, as you recover and move further away from treatments, less time can be spent in appointments.
Once you begin spending more time at home, you may ask yourself where do I go from here. Recovery can take up to 9-12 months and with that, many life adjustments may be necessary. It can be challenging to grapple with the concept that life that was once deemed impossible and now you are told that you are ok. No longer are you a cancer patient but you still might not know your identity. This can be a tough time for an individual but relying on your support group can be helpful at a time that feels quite difficult.
In order to better prepare for what your life will be like, talk to your doctor about what to expect from your body. Ask questions like “Will fatigue always be like this?”, “Will weight gain be helpful?”, and “When should I reach out if I think something is not right?”. There are a host of emotions that you may experience, and support groups and counselors are a great resource in helping you through this transitional time. Possibly during treatment, you thought of something you could do once you go home, now maybe this is the time to do it.
Another issue that many cancer patients face, is fear of recurrence. For some patients this occupies their thoughts and makes enjoying the present moment impossible. Patients have described feeling, “waiting for the sword to drop and end it,” “being sick for a week before a follow up appointment- every time- not sleeping, nightmares, feeling terribly fearful and sad.” Others become uncharacteristically short and uncommunicative with their loved ones. This happens to some patients, but there is help. Talking to a mental health professional, letting your medical team know that you are going through these emotions, support groups, all can be helpful to recognize this very real state of mind.
Finding a new normal may take months. Many survivors say that cancer changes them and how they feel about life. The things that were once so important are not such an issue. People often have mixed emotions about ending treatment. Some think they should celebrate, some feel anxious about this new freedom and many times it is a time for re-evaluation of your priorities.
To make this adjustment -assess your life. Are you doing what fulfills you? Are you doing what is important to you? Focus on each day and expect good days as well as some bad moments. Doing things at your own pace is important. Success is not a race.