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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Experience With Humility

Eleanor Ericson Mesothelioma NurseWe always encourage people to go to a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence for a personalized treatment evaluation. Malignant mesothelioma is such a rare disease and is difficult to diagnose. Therefore it is best to get your options from an expert. Since treatment options are dependent on the cell type, stage, and functional status of the patient with the disease, it is important to go to a center that has an experienced team of experts. The mesothelioma expert is a leader in the treatment of the disease, but you are expert on your life.

How do you find a center that will be the best “fit” for the person with the diagnosis and their family? You are looking for a center that has an expert with experience, and a dedicated team to support you through the journey. There are also intangibles that you need to consider. One of them is your ability to relate with some members of the team at the mesothelioma center.

What are some of the qualities that you are looking for when you look for a doctor to lead your team in the fight against this serious cancer? There are some characteristics that you will not be able to find when you google your expert. One of the most important qualities is the ability to really listen to the person diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and their families.

What makes these centers different is the experience of the staff. There is no substitute for experience. With experience comes confidence, which must be balanced with curiosity and openness. When a person is an expert in something it is vital they remain willing to listen to others. The experts must possess intellectual humility. Intellectual humility is defined as the ability to recognize what you think and believe could be wrong. The expert should be comfortable with new ideas, options and foster a culture that encourages new ideas to be brought forth.

Some of the leading doctors in the field of mesothelioma research, when talking with a patient and their family, will sometimes surprise the family by saying, “I don’t know.” Through years of supporting people with mesothelioma and their families, we have recognized the importance of telling people upfront that there is still so much to learn.

Seeking out an opinion at a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence can be a life-altering decision. Asking for help can be difficult for some of us – make sure you are comfortable with your ability to communicate with your expert or one of the members of their team.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemingway

Asking For Help

Eleanor Ericson Mesothelioma Nurse

Being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma can change your outlook on many things. This week, a person with mesothelioma returned to our clinic with a friend. His journey with mesothelioma has been going on for about 2 years. He has a loving wife and family and had always been a man in control. The new role of being a patient was very difficult for him. The family had said he was very social and had a lot of friends who wanted to support him. During the initial diagnosis and treatment, he had shut them out, relying on his wife and children. This is not unusual as he was still adjusting to his disease. As his mesothelioma became a chronic illness and his family had resumed their activities, he still had a hard time letting his friends back in. This appointment was different: he had asked a friend to bring him. This might seem like a small detail, but it wasn’t.

As different treatments, earlier diagnoses, and specialized care have evolved, some journeys with mesothelioma are progressing to living with mesothelioma as a chronic disease. Living with a chronic disease can be very challenging. Being diagnosed and living with mesothelioma has been described as a “team sport.” For some people there are aspects of this “team sport” that are difficult to deal with – one of them being asking for help.

Sometimes we just need help. For many of us asking for help is difficult. Many people think of asking for help as a sign of weakness. They do not want to be seen as needy. This is easy to understand because people often take pride in being independent.

There are many books devoted to helping and improving yourself. Self-help book topics include how to start a business, selling, branding yourself and just about any topic that you can think of. For your health there are books on living and eating healthy, growing older, taking care of children – again, any topic that you can think of.  Society encourages us all to help improve ourselves. Through training, diet, education and exercise you can help you be a better person.

Self-reliance and independence are encouraged from the time you are a toddler. Doing it yourself is celebrated and acknowledged as an accomplishment. People are praised as competent, strong, independent – all attributes for which we are proud.

Some people are dread asking for help. They delay it hoping things will get better. They look at asking for help as a deficiency. They fear losing control. They fear they will not be able to repay the favor.

How can you help a person feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it? The best approach is to ask early. Don’t wait until a crisis to reach out. If possible, ask in person and in private. Be straightforward with your request. Thank the person whether they help you or not.

Most people are happy to help someone else. They feel better about themselves. Everyone has their own unique gifts, insights and experiences and if asked are happy to share them with others. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Remember that the people who love you will want to help.


Lisa Hyde-Barrett, RN Mesothelioma NurseWe write a lot about the physical symptoms of Mesothelioma and are always trying to help people with the pain, shortness of breath or any other physical limitations. Today we are writing about what people experience mentally when being diagnosed with Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, like any other cancer, leaves the patient feeling fearful, sad, and scared, to name a few. The brain is a powerful organ and it controls our thoughts and emotions. The part of the brain that is responsible for this is the limbic system. The center of the emotional processing center is the amygdala which receives input from other brain functions. Emotions are controlled by the levels of different chemicals in your brain. For example, if you are in danger your brain will release hormones that make you react faster. The hormone is known as adrenaline. Emotions are powerful and your mood determines how you react to certain scenarios. Developing a skill set to learn how to control your emotions can be done but it requires practice and patience.

The first thing you should do is identify the emotion that you are experiencing. If you suppress your emotions or ignore them, that does not mean they will go away. If you feel sad or frightened, you need to identify and acknowledge this is how you feel. The next step would be to reframe your thinking pattern. If you are anticipating the worst when you see the doctor, you may not be able to fully understand what they physician is saying because you have already painted a bad scenario in your head. Try to open your mind and pretend you are looking through a magnifying glass with no smudges and the lens is perfectly clear. The lens is your brain with no preconceived notion. Another suggestion would be to do something to break those emotions that seem to persist and nag at you. Engage in something that makes you feel good. Many times, people go for walks, or visit someone to take their mind off their own issues. If you want to feel positive you must do something positive. Some people will meditate or listen to some upbeat music. Practicing managing your emotions does not happen overnight but the more you invest the better the outcome.

We know how treatments and recovery can be physically draining but keeping your emotions in check will improve you mentally and physically. If these suggestions are not helpful try reaching out to a medical professional who may be able to steer you in the direction of some professional aide. Throughout medical centers there are psychiatrists, social workers, and chaplains. Don’t give in and just say this is how I am supposed to live. Many people have learned to teach themselves not to get bogged down by these emotions. Your body is fighting Mesothelioma and your brain is fighting the mental part of the disease. Get up each morning and give it your all. This is by no means an easy task, but you are worth it.


Eleanor Ericson Mesothelioma Nurse“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.” Hubert H. Humphrey

Friends are vital to the human experience. Friends come at many different times in our lives – some are with us for a short time, others are lifelong relationships, and all sustain us through the good and bad times.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle in 384 B.C. classified friendships into three different types: Friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good. A friendship of utility is based on the benefits that each side can offer the other. Business partners, classmates from school, and work colleagues are some examples. A friendship of pleasure includes common interests, such as when people who enjoy sporting events go to games together. Finally, a friendship of the good is a friendship based upon respect and appreciation of the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. Friendships of utility and pleasure can come and go in your lifetime. You may move, or not be interested in a hobby that had originally brought you together. The other person may lose interest in what your common bond was, and these friendships tend to fade away. Friendships of the good, however, are hard to find and sustain. If you have one or two good friends in a lifetime, you are blessed.

We all find friends in different places. From our first friends who may be our sisters or brothers or cousins, to friends from school, work, church, or different organizations that we belong to. When we are young it is easier to make friends. At school, camp or playing sports you find people that you have things in common with and friendships are born.

As adults, making friends can be more challenging. You might have your friends from work, but people change jobs much more frequently these days. More people than ever are working from home and moving to a new city can be challenging to find new friends as adults. Often the advice to join a group, volunteer, or take a class is offered in order to help adults meet new people and form friendships.

Being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is a life altering diagnosis that can put you in contact with people who you never would have met otherwise. Over the years we have been witness to some friendships of the good develop. One was a friendship that spanned eight years with two people that lived in different parts of the country, had a difference in age of 15 years, one was a man and one was a woman. What started as a friendship of convenience ended up being one of the most meaningful relationships in both of their lives.

When a person is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, one of the last things on their mind is forming a new friendship. True friendships, however, can sustain us when times are rough.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer

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