One of the hardest things a mesothelioma patient has to cope with is loneliness. When it’s a struggle to breathe, the normal social activities of daily life can become overwhelming and exhausting. After a chemotherapy treatment or during recovery from surgery, in particular, the mesothelioma patient’s world can become very small. The social circle of a mesothelioma patient may shrink down to just a caregiver and perhaps some close family members. Patients may feel closed off from the rest of their community.
Any time you reach out, no matter what you have to offer, you have brightened the mesothelioma patient’s day. But some specific things are particularly helpful to people struggling with a mesothelioma diagnosis. The seven suggestions below are just to get you started. Use your creativity to add even more.
1. Call the Mesothelioma Patient
Or text, or email – any way you can reach out will be appreciated. Don’t feel hurt or snubbed if you don’t hear back right away. Remember that chemotherapy treatments can leave people feeling very sick and tired. You can rest assured that the fact that you left a message or sent well wishes will give comfort to your mesothelioma patient family member or friend.
If you are able to reach the mesothelioma patient, use the conversation to listen to what they have to say (see suggestion number 7) or, if they’re too tired to talk, tell them a bit about what’s happening in your world (number 6, below).
2. Offer Your Help
Ask the mesothelioma patient and any caregivers what you can do. If they can’t think of anything, make some suggestions. A serious cancer like mesothelioma puts a big strain on any household. There will surely be some way you can pitch in.
It might be something small, like running an errand or sweeping the back porch. Or you could offer to come by once a week with home cooked food or a delivery of groceries.
Use your talents to help the mesothelioma patient. If you’re handy, perhaps you could fix the broken kitchen cabinet or unclog the sink. You could weed the garden or mow the front lawn.
Mesothelioma care takes a lot of time and energy. The cancer saps energy from the mesothelioma patient. It’s easy for things around the house to fall into disrepair or untidiness during this time. Everyone has more important things to think about than trimming the hedges or repairing the back fence. If you can do one of these tasks, you’ll help the mesothelioma patient feel that life is a bit more normal. This is sure to brighten everyone’s day.
3. Set Up an Online Support Network
Caring for a mesothelioma patient is a bigger job than any one person can do alone. An online support network site like Caring Bridge or Lotsa Helping Hands can help organize friends and family to work together to care for the mesothelioma patient. This is a great way to surround him with care and love. Particularly if the person lives alone, a support network can be even more critical.
It may be hard for a mesothelioma patient to set this up by himself or herself. When you’re dealing with mesothelioma, there is little energy left over, even for important things like asking for help. On top of that, some people feel shy or embarrassed to ask others for assistance, even if their need is great.
You can help overcome all this resistance when you take care of the setup for an online support network for the mesothelioma patient.
4. Take the Mesothelioma Patient to Lunch
An extra helping hand may be all that’s needed to get the mesothelioma patient in your life out for some much-needed fresh air and change of scenery. Pick a restaurant that your friend enjoys or somewhere quiet where he can be comfortable.
If it’s a nice day, you could take a picnic to the park and lie on the grass. Or drive to a beautiful nature spot and bring a meal.
If the mesothelioma patient isn’t feeling up to going out, you could bring food from a favorite restaurant in. Lunch with you is sure to brighten their day, no matter where you have it.
5. Make a Gift Basket for the Mesothelioma Patient
What are some of the mesothelioma patient’s favorite things? Chocolate, a good book, cheese and crackers, puzzles or games, a hand-knit cap to keep his or her head warm after chemotherapy – the contents of a gift basket are limited only by your budget, your imagination, and what you know about the tastes of your friend.
A gift basket doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to deliver a dose of happiness. If the mesothelioma patient is in the hospital, a gift basket with warm slippers, a couple of magazines, and some toiletries might be just what’s needed to make his day.
Consider creating a community gift basket. Ask several friends of the mesothelioma patient to each contribute one item they think would be appreciated. Then you can package it nicely and deliver it with a card that you all sign.
Part of the appeal of a gift basket is the care and love you put into gathering the items and packing them with ribbon and tissue. Even if something in the basket is not the perfect gift, the mesothelioma patient will know it was offered with love.
6. Change the Subject from Mesothelioma
You may be very interested in the latest prognosis on the progress of the disease or where the mesothelioma patient is in their current round of chemotherapy. Remember that this is something a mesothelioma patient has to hear about and think about every day.
When you visit, he may be happier to talk about last night’s baseball game or catch up on what’s been going on at work while he’s been away. Let the mesothelioma patient lead the conversation. If he asks about your life, tell the story about your cat getting his head stuck in the tissue box or the funny thing your granddaughter said at school the other day. You’ll provide a welcome distraction and maybe some healing laughter.
7. Listen to the Mesothelioma Patient with an Open Heart
One of the things that the mesothelioma patient in your life may need the most is a warm and friendly ear. Sitting still and listening can be hard for some of us, but this simple act may be the most powerful way to provide solace.
Don’t offer judgments or solutions. Make eye contact and affirm that the mesothelioma patient has your full attention. Speaking about feelings, worries, regrets, or little victories can be a big relief for a mesothelioma patient, especially near the end of life. Your listening ears are the best gift you can give your friend.