“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” In 1948, after World War Two this declaration with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is thought of as the beginning of the modern-day human rights movement.
Dignity is the one thing we all value and take for granted. We just assume we are going to function independently and our goals will be met. Diseases like Mesothelioma try to rob individuals of their dignity. It is hard as a loved one to witness a person struggle and not jump in and take over. I have watched an individual over the last few months become plagued by the disease and continue to maintain his independence and dignity. From an outsider’s viewpoint everything seems to be such a struggle and it is heartbreaking to watch. We recently had a conversation about some of his activities that he does independently. As he explained to me, the physical symptoms are the hardest. Shortness of breath is one and the fluid has made his mobility almost impossible. There are a few activities that he still enjoys and feels he can still do. As he continues to control his medical journey independently he has learned to ask for help when needed. The activities that he performs independently he hangs onto and is unwilling to give up despite the thoughts of others. Perhaps his family or friends could do it quicker or better, but he still can do it. We must respect what people can do despite how it appears on the outside. We all need to know we can perform somethings independently.
As we watch so many people battle with their illnesses we realize all we really can do is support them. Sometimes just watching can be the hardest but possibly the most important. Often, we can be guilty thinking “if that was me I would do this.”. Truth be told I believe no one really knows what they would do. For this individual he continues to fight despite what others think he should do. The one thing Mesothelioma has not stolen is his power to make decisions about how he will travel through his journey. Choices are freedom and he continue to make these for himself.
This has to be one of the hardest parts of watching someone deal with Mesothelioma, how it steals someone’s self- worth. How do we help someone preserve this component that makes us all individuals? Being able to care for ourselves independently gives us self-worth. For this person the mere task of dressing, putting on shoes, still provides self-worth. It would be easier for a loved one to step in and do some or all of it, and sure would be quicker, but we must allow a person to continue to provide himself with the simple tasks of caring for himself. No doubt the fight and will are still there so we must support these people. Taking over for a loved one who is having difficulty with anything can dash their hopes and dreams. If we don’t allow patients to try, then what have we left them with.