Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Special - Guest Post: Parenting After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Parenting is a tough job, even when healthy. For those parents who have received a terrible, possibly fatal health diagnosis, parenting takes on much more meaning and a sense of urgency. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is most often associated with asbestos exposure. Thousands of new cases are diagnosed every year and these usually come with a shortened life expectancy. When this diagnosis is given to a parent, he or she can expect to face unique parenting challenges.
 
Terminal cancer is any kind of cancer that may be treated, but not cured. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the organs of the body. Most common is pleural mesothelioma, a malignant and aggressive cancer of the tissue lining the lungs. A parent living with this condition faces symptoms like difficulty breathing and chest pain, not to mention the fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of treatment.
 
Mesothelioma is most often terminal; there is no cure. Treatments can extend a patient’s life, but not always by very much. Most patients suffering with the illness can blame asbestos exposure at work, or even secondhand exposure from a parent. Statistics show that about 18 percent of people diagnosed with cancer are parents of minors. If you have received a diagnosis like this, there are steps you can take, advice from those that have been there before you, to help you parent in spite of your illness:
 
·         Talk about being sick, but be age appropriate.
 
Kids know when their parents aren’t being truthful or are hiding something. It is important to be open with your child about your illness, even if you feel like protecting them from that information is better. Knowledge is power and being able to ask questions and get honest answers can dispel fear in a child. Just be sure to be age appropriate with the kind of information you give your children.
 
·         Let your children express their feelings to cope.
 
It’s important that your children are able to process and give voice to the feelings they have. Let them talk to any trusted adult that they feel comfortable sharing with and always be open to letting them vent, talk, or cry. Expression is a great coping mechanism and you can further help your child cope by learning more of these strategies together: yoga, meditation, journaling, and others.
 
·         Let others help.
 
Being treated for cancer isn’t easy. Treatments like chemotherapy can cause fatigue, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, infections, pain, and many other side effects. Let people who love you help with things like chores and housework so you can save your energy for your children.
 
·         Maintain routine and normalcy.
 
Children are sensitive to anything that upsets the balance of their normal lives. Cancer, especially an aggressive and terminal cancer like mesothelioma is bound to upset that balance, but it is important that you and other adults in their lives do whatever possible to stick to the usual routine and make everyday life as normal as possible. This will help children cope and come to terms with the changes that are coming.
 
·         Make financial preparations.
 
Now is the time to make sure you have planned for your children’s futures. It will make you feel better and allow you to take some control over what happens next. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, chances are you developed this cancer because of exposure and that you weren’t aware of the risks. Many victims of mesothelioma are getting settlements and compensation from employers or manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. If you can take advantage of this kind of compensation you can help ensure a steady future for your children.
 
·         Make time, no matter what.
 
Finally, be sure to make time for being with your children. Now more than ever your time spent with them is valuable. With everything else going on, from treatment to working with lawyers to get compensation, your time may be limited and it is so important to carve out blocks of time for doing nothing but spending quality time with family.*

*The above post is a guest post by Katherine Keys. At the age of 49, Katherine was diagnosed with Stage 1 Pleural Mesothelioma and was told she had less than two years to live. With the help of  the doctors and staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, she was able to fight the cancer. Now 9 years later, she is still cancer free.

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