A cancer diagnosis generally strikes quickly and unexpectedly, completely unsettling one’s life, with patients rarely expecting this difficult diagnosis. One day an individual may be carrying on with his or her life, completely unaware of any health condition, while the next he or she learns about the disease that might have been laying dormant for decades. In an instant, this diagnosis can become the most important aspect of that patient’s life as that person’s mortality is put into perspective.
A Difficult Diagnosis
That sense of shock can be even worse for a mesothelioma diagnosis, as patients struggle to understand a disease they might not be familiar with. Furthermore, this diagnosis might come as a greater surprise, as symptoms of mesothelioma typically mimic other illnesses at first, slowly building in intensity. As a result, patients and doctors might have been struggling with diagnosing this unknown condition for an extended period of time. Because mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, testing for more common diseases generally occurs first. All too often, mesothelioma tests take place only after all other ideas have been exhausted.
Stages of Coping
That delay in recognition can exacerbate an already difficult diagnosis, making the negative stages of coping even more pronounced. After the initial shock of diagnosis, some individuals may feel disbelief, refusing to accept the truth about their condition, especially if they feel well. Asking “Why did this happen to me?” is a common reaction. Next, patients may feel intense emotions of fear, although the source of this fear varies. Some individuals might fear the disease itself, while other patients might fear the treatment of the disease and its effects on them. Still others might fear for their families and loved ones, worrying what will happen to them if they cannot overcome this diagnosis.
In addition, some patients exhibit feelings of guilt, expressing remorse at failing to recognize the warning signs of their disease earlier or wondering what actions they took to cause the disease. This stage can potentially be highly prominent in mesothelioma patients because the disease is brought on by exposure to asbestos. These patients might wonder where this exposure took place, worrying that they might have put family members at risk through secondhand exposure and overwhelming them with guilt.
Anger is another common reaction, particularly when it comes to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Patients may feel angry at the company or employer who exposed them to or failed to protect them from asbestos, particularly if there is evidence that those in charge knew of the health hazards posed by asbestos.
Hopelessness frequently accompanies a cancer diagnosis, as patients struggle to stay positive in theface of this looming sickness. That uncertainty can severely disrupt a patient’s emotional state, especially if they focus on negative aspects of treatment and the time and quality it will sap from their lives. That can then lead to a profound sense of loss as patients frequently must confront a new image of themselves. This diagnosis has the ability to force individuals to alter their perception of their bodies and future, leading to a sense of confusion with these unwanted changes.
That grief can also manifest itself in the form of intense anger and frustration, which may be focused at friends, family or health care professionals. This anger can be intensified in mesothelioma patients, as individuals express frustration over a possibly delayed diagnosis. However, patients might also keep that anger inside as they grapple with difficult spiritual and hypothetical questions.
Maintaining a Positive Attitude
Although a wide array of negative emotions are both common and natural, patients who fare best in the treatment of this disease are those who can overcome these initial hurdles and focus on treatment. Fighting mesothelioma involves as much of a mental struggle as a physical. Patients must steel themselves for a physical and emotional battle requiring discipline, strength and bravery. While mesothelioma typically carries a poor prognosis and life expectancy, several individuals have exceeded all medical expectations of their conditions, possessing high quality lives for years after diagnosis. However, to do that, individuals must follow several steps to give themselves their best chance at survival.