Emotional Support for Mesothelioma Explained
As Arber and Spencer point out in their article in Psycho-Oncology, there is a connection between an individual’s physical and emotional symptoms. Part of the reason for that is the fact that so much of our personal identity comes from our relationship with our bodies. That is, what they are capable of, how they look or how they feel.
When there is a loss of control, like the one that can come when an individual learns they have mesothelioma, it creates a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability which can be felt with physical sensations.
Patients who receive emotional support for mesothelioma immediately following a diagnosis are more likely to believe that they can improve their condition and achieve their treatment goals. Both of those experiences can lead to a further reduction in a person’s emotional distress.
How Emotional Support for Mesothelioma Can Help
The time right after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is a time when patients feel highly uncertain, distressed and out of control. With all of the bad news and negative information surrounding mesothelioma, patients and their families can slip into despair. However, receiving emotional support can help patients overcome or work through many of their emotional stressors.
Receiving Emotional Support Early On
It’s important for patients to have their emotional and physical needs met in the first 3 months after diagnosis. When patients receive emotional support early on, they experience a higher quality of life.
Speaking with counselors, social worker or other individuals who are in similar circumstances can help patients:
- Address their depression
- Overcome any guilt they might be experiencing
- Cope with fear and feelings of isolation
- Regain control of their lives
- Manage their anxiety and anger
- Deal with any feelings of grief or loss
- Learn effective stress management techniques
Emotional support for mesothelioma isn’t only necessary for patients. Receiving emotional support can also help family members, friends, and other caregivers deal with the emotions and stresses of living with and caring for someone who is sick, which is a role that can often feel very isolating and lonely.
Types of Emotional Support
There are different types of emotional support for patients and their families. While there is no right format, there may be a correct format for you, and that could change as the disease progresses, or your needs change. Regardless of what form you chose, it will give you an outlet for your fears and struggles, and help you learn new ways to cope with the difficulties you face.
Possibly the most well-known form of emotional support is counseling. Speaking with a counselor one-on-one, with your family, or in a group setting allows you to learn different coping methods, discuss your concerns whether they are to do with the illness itself or the financial and familial strain it puts on you and your loved ones.
Counseling sessions can be led by a variety of different experts, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers or oncology support workers. Each type of counselor will bring various aspects of their profession to the counseling session, so it’s important to think about what you hope to get out of counseling before selecting a counselor.
Another form of emotional support can be found by attending support groups. While these groups may be divided up in different ways (they might be for anyone with cancer, for people with mesothelioma, or for family members and friends) they tend to come in 3 main categories:
- Peer-led or Self-help Support Groups: One or more group members facilitate these groups. One of the benefits of this format is that everyone there has to some degree experienced what you are going through, so they can understand how you are feeling.
- Professional-led Support Groups: In this type of support group the leader is a trained counselor, psychologist, or support worker. In these groups, the leader will guide the discussion and ensure that a variety of different concerns are covered to ensure everyone receives help.
- Informational Support Groups: When patients are asked what causes them stress, one of the common answers is a lack of reliable and timely information. Information support groups can help fill that knowledge gap. These groups are led by professional facilitators who are trained to provide cancer-related information. Facilitators often invite experts (counselors, doctors, radiologists, etc.) to ensure patients receive the most accurate information.
Get Emotional Support Online
Today, you can find support groups online, opening up the option to people who are shy or unable to travel. It also enables the participants the opportunity to reflect on what was said in the group session and then give more thoughtful answers at a later time.
Spiritual or Faith-Based Support
Like the other types of support, religious or faith-based support can take different styles. It could be as simple as members of your faith community bringing prepared meals and staying to pray and talk with you about how you are coping. Or you could participate in a group session with a religious focus.
Diseases like mesothelioma can draw out all sorts of questions about faith and fairness. Speaking with your pastor, rabbi, imam or spiritual counselor to find the balance between the spiritual and physical, and wrestle with any questions of faith that come up.
Seeking Emotional Support for Mesothelioma
If you need emotional support, do not hesitate to ask for it. It is not a sign of weakness if you are unable to do this alone. Many cancer centers offer in-house emotional support as part of treatment. So if you need help, contact your cancer center or speak with our Patient Advocates for more support options.