The holiday season is a heartwarming time for family and friends.
Unfortunately, for some, the cheer is dampened by a diagnosis of mesothelioma during the holidays.
Around 2,500-3,000 people each year in the United States are told they have mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos. This news often leaves people with more questions than answers. As they go to the holiday season, they’re either beginning treatment with hopes of long-term survival or receiving palliative care to make their final months comfortable.
The dark cloud hovering above should not overwhelm your time with family. Whether you’re the patient with mesothelioma or a loved one of someone diagnosed with the cancer, here are four tips to help make this year’s holiday season special.
Spend Quality Time With Family
Make memories with your loved ones. This is the most important piece of advice we can give — and one that serves as an umbrella for the rest.
The holidays are a time of the year when different segments of your family come together to spend time as a collective group. Whether it’s a massive lunch or dinner at someone’s house, an exchanging of presents or some other activity, this is a potential once-a-year opportunity.
Strike up a conversation with your nephew. Share laughs with your grandchild. Smile at your son or daughter.
If you’re the family member, include your loved one with mesothelioma. The most important part of this time is being part of the family. So make sure to include them, as this is a part of providing patient support.
Remember to Eat Healthy and Exercise
One of the best assets fighting malignant mesothelioma is regular exercise and a healthy diet. Don’t overdo it: Regular exercise could be a walk around the block or even gardening in the front or back yard.
This serves as a chance to spend time with family. Make exercise a group activity — a family walk outside or gardening with a loved one. This can turn into cherishable moments during the holidays.
Let family members help you with meals, too. If you’re the primary caregiver, ask other family members for help. If you’re a family member visiting, request to help with meals. You can make this a team-oriented task for the benefit of your loved one with mesothelioma.
Rest, Sleep, and Relax
Yes, exercise is important. So is rest and sleep.
Mesothelioma is trying to take over your body. The cancer is going to sap your energy. The same is true for the therapy you might be taking to fight back against these tumors. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both cause fatigue and nausea as a side effect.
If you don’t want to participate in a family holiday activity — such as shopping or another event — just say no. It’s OK, and your family members will understand.
If you’re the family member, respect and understand that the participation level might be low. This is understandable, and it’s OK to let them have time to themselves. It’s also worthwhile to stay back and spend one-on-one time with your parent, grandparent or sibling with cancer.
If Finances Are Tight, Make the Best of It
Mesothelioma is an expensive disease. It removes people from full-time work — both the patient and family caregiver — and causes exorbitant medical bills. Debt is quite common for families paying for mesothelioma treatment costs.
When the holidays come around, there’s a sense of responsibility to spend money on gifts. There are alternatives, such as:
- Making handcrafted gifts
- Doing grab-bag gift exchanges where you only buy for one person
- Setting maximum amounts for gift purchases
Please remember the holidays aren’t at all about the price tag on gifts. It’s about spending time with your loved ones and making memories. This time together is the best gift of all, and it can raise your spirits as you continue living with and fighting your cancer.