Living with Mesothelioma

Healthy Eating When You Have Mesothelioma

Dealing with mesothelioma can be extremely taxing. The disease itself and the various prescribed treatments can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your battle against cancer can leave you exhausted. You can become frustrated and discouraged. For many, it is a long, uphill battle.

There is good news, though.

Through ongoing research and a deeper understanding of the disease, the various forms of treatment are being refined. Depending on each patient’s specific circumstances, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are still common courses of action, but there are other powerful tools in the arsenal that can produce strong, ongoing, positive results. One of the most prominent of these is a healthy diet.

Why Healthy Eating is Important

For a healthy body, food has two purposes:

First, it provides the necessary nutrients to allow the body to rebuild damaged cells, replace old ones, and heal wounds within the overall systems. The body is in a constant state of rebuilding and repair, keeping the various internal systems in good condition and working together smoothly as a unit.

Second, the nutrition we receive is the sole source of energy for our body. It’s the fuel in our tank, the charge in our battery, and the fire in our engines. It’s the source of all our internal power. If we put in good fuel, the body runs smoothly. If we skip some nutritional necessities or allow impurities or other junk, our system is impaired.

For a mesothelioma patient, these two functions are even more elevated. If your body is deeply mired in the battle against sickness, it needs to take advantage of every positive resource. A strong, healthy diet can equip your body with the weapons it needs to fight, and the strength to maintain its daily energy.

Is it Beneficial to Eat Organic Foods?

Many of the foods available today are tainted with insecticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and many other undesirable elements. If your body is already burdened with a disease, the last thing it needs is another intrusion to battle.

Many common food items also lose nutritional value during the bulk harvesting and processing systems in use today. By switching to all natural, organic food sources, you provide your body with the purest, most powerful resources it can get to employ in its fight against cancer.

Meal Planning Tips for Mesothelioma Patients

As a mesothelioma patient, your dietary needs have changed. You are no longer on any kind of low-calorie, reduced-carb, or any other restrictive diet. Your body needs all the nutrition it can get, and it needs it now. Here are some tips for keeping your body nourished:

  • Eat whenever you can. Battling cancer can wear you down, and the treatments can cause you to lose your appetite. You may not be able to eat at specific mealtimes, so eat whenever possible. If you get hungry between meals, take advantage of those moments and eat. Pack in as much nutrition as possible, to help overcome those times when you can’t. Your body needs the nutrients, so give it all you can.
  • Eat a Variety of Foods. Try to eat a balanced diet to give your body everything it might need. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, starches, carbohydrates, and proteins. Each type of food has a purpose and is necessary for your body to function.
  • Listen to your body. Pay attention to cravings and hunger patterns. If your body seems to be wanting something, try to meet that need. Many times it will signal a deficiency through hunger, or let you know when it is capable of digesting a meal. Take advantage of those times and feed it. If it craves a certain type of food or wants to eat at an odd time of day, try to find a way to fulfill that craving and give it all the help you can.
  • Don’t worry about overeating. During your battle against cancer, being able to eat and get enough nutrition is a common problem. Eat all you can. As your treatments continue, it may become more difficult to keep yourself nourished, so stay ahead of the game whenever possible.

Foods that Help with Treatment Side Effects

Dealing with chemotherapy and radiation treatments can be a challenge. Here are some common side effects, and the nutritional options that can help alleviate them.

  • Nausea. Settle your system with bland foods such as mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice. Mild soda or ginger tea can also help.
  • Vomiting. Try eating a little bread or grain cereals to soak up extra acid, and help stabilize your stomach.
  • Dehydration. Drink plenty of water, and include fruits and vegetables that are particularly juicy. Soups and broths are also a good way to increase fluids in your meals.
  • Exhaustion. Calories are energy, and during treatments, your body will need boosts of energy. The quickest and most efficient way to get calories into your system is through carbohydrates. Bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are good sources of carbohydrates and can quickly restore your body’s energy levels.
  • Mouth sores. If chewing becomes difficult due to sores that have developed in your mouth, try to choose softer foods, or drink-based meals such as soups, stews, or milkshakes.

Foods that Help with Recovery

  • Fruits and Vegetables. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables adds vitamins and other antioxidants to your system. These are important for cell growth and development, and for the immune system to counter various sicknesses. They also add more water to your diet, helping to offset the dehydration that can accompany treatments.
  • Proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. As your body fights to defeat cancer, it will need plenty of proteins to rebuild. Meats, eggs, cheese, fish, beans, and nuts are great sources of protein.
  • Carbohydrates. To help keep your energy up, eat plenty of carbs. If you know you are going to be facing a difficult time ahead, consuming some carbs the day before can help give you the boost you need to push through it.

 

Robert SteinbergHealthy Eating When You Have Mesothelioma
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How is Exercise Beneficial if I Have Mesothelioma?

The health benefits of physical exercises are well known. Less known, however, are their potential benefits for people suffering from cancer before, during and after chemotherapy treatment. Light aerobic and cardiovascular exercises go a long way to help alleviate the symptoms of cancer treatment and helps the patient stay strong – both physically and mentally. One form of cancer that exercise is of particular benefit is mesothelioma. This type of cancer affects the linings of internal organs, in most cases the lungs.

If you or someone you know suffers from mesothelioma and are wondering whether exercising helps, read on because this post is for you.

Benefits of Exercise for Mesothelioma Patients

Living with a life threatening condition such as mesothelioma makes it almost impossible to focus on anything else – let alone physical exercise. There are many scientifically documented benefits of regular exercising for patients suffering or recovering from this form of cancer. Considering that mesothelioma is a cancerous condition that affects the lungs, physical exercise has more profound impact on patients suffering from it compared to other types of cancer. Regular physical exercise will benefit a patient suffering from mesothelioma in the following ways:

Reduced stress levels and lower risks of depression

Most people undergo an enormous amount of stress when they are first diagnosed with cancer. Some patients even get depressed and their anxiety levels peak because it is almost impossible for them to take their minds off their diagnosis, making their condition even worse. Exercise, on the other hand, is a great way for a patient to take their mind off their situation and to suppress negative thoughts. Just a week of regular exercising will significantly help the patient combat stress and depression and set their minds on the path to recovery for the body to follow.

Increased appetite

Lack of appetite is one of the side effects of cancer treatments. When a patient suffering from mesothelioma is undergoing treatment, they are very likely to experience difficulty swallowing and even when they do, keeping the food down is another challenge. Eating stops being an enjoyable activity, and poor diet means that the body does not get the nutrients it needs to see the patient through the recovery journey. Exercise is known to increase the body’s metabolism and ultimately appetite for food and the body’s overall nutrition. This goes a long way to speed up recovery.

Improved body functions

It is totally expected that the body of a person undergoing cancer treatment will suffer from decreased body functions such as lethargy, insomnia, poor mobility, and diminished motor functions. The only effective way to nurture the body to normalcy is through physical exercises. The exercises do not need to be strenuous workouts; taking a stroll, jogging, or yoga will help the patient recover basic bodily functions such as deep sleep, high energy levels, and improve motor and cognitive functions.

Exercising improves the patient’s self-image and self-control

At first, a patient living with mesothelioma may feel like they have lost control of their life, not only because of the seriousness of the condition but also because of the myriad of changes the body has to undergo during treatment. Loss of muscle mass, rapid weight loss or weight gain, and hair loss are just a few of the changes a cancer patient may have to undergo.

With exercise, the patient can maintain a certain degree of fitness and will have greater control over the body. This is a powerful tool that will influence the mind, which in turn affects how fast and effectively it recovers from the treatments.

Improved treatment outcome

In many cases, the only limitation to the treatment a patient suffering from mesothelioma can receive is the state of physical health. A patient who exercises regularly will not only be eligible for more diverse forms of treatment but their improved overall physical fitness will make them able to better tolerate the cancer treatments. A 2014 study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [https://www.mskcc.org/blog/what-are-benefits-exercise-during-and-after-treatment] revealed that cancer patients who exercised regularly during and after treatment were more likely to survive the cancer than those who led sedentary lifestyles.

Safe Exercises for Mesothelioma Patients

A couple of years ago, oncologists advised cancer patients to get as much rest as possible and ‘take it easy’ while they underwent treatment. Today, they are advising patients to exercise regularly to improve their chances of recovery. The right exercises for a patient suffering from mesothelioma should:

  • Maintain and improve lung capacity and oxygen flow throughout the body;
  • Improve body energy levels, strength, and endurance;
  • Boost bone density and mobility;
  • Enhance cardiovascular health; and
  • Necessitate a healthier body composition.

Based on these requirements, the safest exercises to do when suffering from mesothelioma are:

  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Leg squats
  • Wall pushups
  • Shoulder Press
  • Chair Exercises (such as kick and contract)
  • Bicep Curls
  • Cycling and elliptical training
  • Swimming

You will notice that these are light exercises that can easily be performed standing or sitting. Each of these exercises should be performed for between 30 minutes and 1 hour three to five times a week for maximum effect.

Exercises Mesothelioma Patients Should Avoid

Any form of intensive exercise that may cause shortness of breath is not recommended for patients with mesothelioma. Some of the exercises the patient should avoid include:

  • Hot and power yoga
  • Long distance cycling and running
  • Heavy weightlifting
  • Fast cardiovascular training
  • Intense workout programs such as P90X, CrossFit, and boot camp classes.

Safety Precautions During Treatment for Mesothelioma

A patient undergoing treatment for mesothelioma can make these exercises safer and more effective by adapting them to his/her overall physical fitness level. Some treatments such as chemotherapy with intensive side effects such as fatigue are best matched with low impact workouts such as yoga or walking.

Patients are advised to get full physical health check including cardiac health check to understand their limitations before coming up with a workout or exercise routine. Most cancer centers today offer comprehensive lifestyle advise that include the right exercises the patient should engage in and the ones they should avoid. If you are undergoing mesothelioma treatment but did not receive this information at your center, you should consult a professional to help you design an exercise plan personalized just for you.

How to Create an Exercise Routine

Every cancer patient needs to have an exercise routine that is personalized to their specific condition and life situation. All exercise routines start small – short walks, 3-minute yoga, or a simple chair exercise – and build over time. Depending on the treatments a patient is undergoing and their physical status, the routine may be as frequent as multiple times a day to as infrequent as twice a week.

Over time, as the routine is developed, more and more exercises may be added. The objective of such an exercise routine is to help the patients gain all the benefits of the physical exertion without over-stressing the body or mind. Most patients are advised to begin their exercise routines with walking then build on it by experimenting and adding new exercises while increasing the intensity of the workouts to formulate an ideal routine.

Ultimately, the ideal workout routine should have exercises from all the three general exercise types: cardiovascular, aerobic, and strength exercises.

Getting Friends & Family Involved

The fight against mesothelioma is not the kind that a person can fight alone; friends and family have a role to play in encouraging the patient and helping them follow through with their fitness routines. Besides, people enjoy exercising and will even perform better at it when they have someone on their side to encourage them and to share the workout experience and benefits.

If sticking to an exercise routine is hard enough for healthy individuals, imagine how hard it is for a patients combating mesothelioma! The good thing is, sticking to the workout routine much easier when there is peer pressure from friends and family – this is the kind of motivation a patient needs especially during the period before the benefits of the exercises are apparent.

 

Robert SteinbergHow is Exercise Beneficial if I Have Mesothelioma?
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How to Manage Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects

Mesothelioma occurs when cells in the mesothelium become cancerous. The mesothelium is a thin membrane protecting the body’s vital organs. This cancer typically begins in the chest, heart or abdomen and can spread throughout the body. Mesothelioma is typically discovered in the advanced stages. The prognosis for an individual with mesothelioma is five to ten years. Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of developing mesothelioma.

How is Mesothelioma Treated?

There are several ways of treating mesothelioma; in many cases, more than one option is utilized. The type of treatments available depends on the health of the individual, the location of the cancer, and how far it has progressed. Mesothelioma is treated to alleviate side-effects and in attempts to mitigate further complications such as pneumonitis. Patients should discuss treatment goals with their doctor. Long-term survival with mesothelioma is unlikely particularly for older individuals and those with mesothelioma in advanced stages.

Surgery

Surgery is not always an option for removing mesothelioma. While some of the cancer may be able to be removed in a process called debulking, this is not a cure. Surgical options which remove tissue from the lining of the lungs or abdomen may remove some of the difficulties associated with mesothelioma. A catheter may be inserted into the lungs to release fluid buildup and insert medicine to discourage the fluid from returning. In some cases of pleural mesothelioma, one of the lungs may be removed. This will often remove a great deal of the cancer and allows more radiation to be applied to the area without fear of harming the lung.

Chemotherapy

Using chemicals heated and inserted directly at the site, a process called intraperitoneal chemotherapyallows the cancer to be aggressively targeted with less harm to surrounding healthy cells. Applying this treatment prior to surgery makes the operation simpler. The treatment may also be applied post-surgically (adjuvant therapy) to prevent cancer from reoccurring in that area.

Radiation

Radiation therapy makes use of highly concentrated proton and x-ray beams targeted directly at cancer cells. This treatment may be applied after surgery in the same manner as chemotherapy. Radiation is a viable option for reducing signs and symptoms when surgery is not an option.

What Types of Radiation are Used in Treatments?

There are two types of radiation therapy available for treating mesothelioma.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

Also known as EBRT, is the most common form of radiation therapy for mesothelioma. Being treated with radiation is not dissimilar to getting an x-ray. Powerful radioactive energy beams are targeted at cancer cells in the hopes of killing them and preventing them from spreading. The treatment itself lasts only minutes. Positioning the individual so the correct angles can be achieved is more time consuming and challenging. Individuals typically receive treatment five days a week.

Advances in technology have made this treatment even better than it was in the past. A medical team will thoroughly examine the body and the cancer to decide which angles will work best for targeting the cells. Computer imaging allows doctors to get a much clearer view of the inside of the body so that more healthy cells are avoided. This provides a better experience overall — targeting the cancer more accurately and reducing negative side-effects.

Brachytherapy

The second type of radiation therapy is less-commonly used for treating mesothelioma. This therapy works by placing a contained source of radiation inside the body near the cancer site. These short radiation waves target the cancerous cells directly while avoiding healthy cells. This type of therapy is more commonly used for cancerous tumors of the breast and prostate. These radiation sources can be permanent or temporary.

What are Common Side Effects of Mesothelioma Radiation?

There are several side effects which are common after receiving radiation therapy for mesothelioma. Some are short-term, others may be permanent or last for years. Some of the side effects are dependent upon the location of the radiation.

Fatigue

The fatigue that comes with radiation is a deep feeling of weariness and low energy. Individuals will need a great deal of downtime and should avoid stress as much as possible. Many daily activities will be impossible, and it is important that the individual has someone to help with daily chores and errands. Fortunately, these effects will be drastically reduced or gone completely once radiation treatment has stopped.

Skin Irritation and Darkening

Irritation at the radiation site may occur. As with fatigue, many of these side effects will wane over time. Occasionally some scarring or discoloration may remain permanently. Typical afflictions can include burning sensations, itchiness, dry patches, swelling, and peeling or blistering.

Hair loss at the treatment site may occur, and will often grow back, though maybe not as thick as it was before. Similarly, darkening and thickening of the skin around the treatment site is a common occurrence. This effect is typically permanent.

Chest Radiation

Radiation therapy occurring at the chest might include some additional side effects. Shortness of breath and coughing can lead to shallow breathing which can result in pneumonitis. Throat swelling and irritation may also occur which could lead to a reduced appetite and poor nutrition, weakness and weight loss.

Abdomen Radiation

Radiation therapy aimed at the abdominal cavity can result in a variety of side effects. Cramping, bowel discomfort and urinary incontinence may occur. Nausea and vomiting are common. Thankfully, these symptoms can often be treated with over the counter medications.

Methods for Managing Common Side Effects

Maintaining health, getting adequate rest and reducing stress as much as possible are essential to recovering from radiation treatment. Here are several tips that may provide general relief:

  • Try relaxation and breathing techniques
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing
  • Check with cancer team before using lotions on radiation site
  • Soothe a sore throat with nutritious smoothies and juices
  • Invest in a bedside fan to reduce feelings of breathlessness
  • Talk to cancer team about over the counter medicines for alleviating side effects
  • Keep in mind the worst effects of radiation are temporary
  • Stay positive
Robert SteinbergHow to Manage Mesothelioma Treatment Side Effects
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Overcoming Anxiety When Living with Mesothelioma

Anxiety is a common psychological condition affecting many people, as many as 40 million adults in the United States alone. The condition is a mental and psychological state of fear and apprehension over what is likely to transpire in the future given a situation.

When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is often fear, disbelief, anger, and apprehension. This is because mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer affecting only a handful of people and is hard to detect in early stages. Many patients often mistake the symptoms for other health conditions such as pneumonia or just shortness of breath while the underlying issue is quite dire. The diagnosis of the disease is the last thing that anyone can expect, therefore. Further, the main causal factor, asbestos exposure, has been banned in the world for years, this means that many people cannot relate how they acquired the disease and what went wrong.

After the reality of your diagnosis sets in, anxiety can become a problem. The disease can be a major source of anxiety and affect even the most emotionally stable people. Despite everything, it is vital to be positive and to seek help that will help with a change of focus that helps in the battle against the disease.

What can I expect emotionally when living with Mesothelioma?

Life changes when you become a mesothelioma patient. The functioning of the body will change, and you will be engaged in another activity of seeking constant and quality medical care that may be time-consuming and intense.

The first expectation is the loss of self-identity. The normal human relationships will take a twist from cordial to utmost respectful and messages of solidarity. The treatment can raise a personal awareness that something is dangerously wrong.

The next emotional expectation is self-pity. One may start wondering why it happened, what went wrong, and what should have been done differently. A feeling of sadness is likely to hit every time the questions pop up.

Another emotional expectation is fear of the feature. The mesothelioma treatments can lead to body changes such as loss of hair, loss of weight, fatigue, tiredness, and a general change of lifestyle. You may wonder how long this will go on and what amount of time is left to accomplish other goals of life.

What are common symptoms of anxiety with Mesothelioma?

Dealing with this rare and aggressive type of cancer often leads to clinical anxiety. Although you may still have some doubts about the accuracy of the biopsy result, the treatments are the factors that make many patients realize that the situation is life-threatening. Below are some of the anxiety symptoms you may experience:

Changes in social behavior. A patient can exhibit symptoms such as; apathetic and sad feelings, crying in isolation, uncontrolled temperament, social isolation, and a loss of the desire for physical activities. Additionally, there might be a general change in tastes and preferences of hobbies and likes about foods, clothing, cars, entertainment, adventure and so on.

The other symptom of anxiety is physiological changes. The signs presented may range from changes in eating habits, fatigue, and changes in sleeping patterns. For instance, a patient can start sleeping during the day and waking up at night to sit on the patio’s rocking chair listening to classical music.

Lastly, a patient may exhibit cognitive symptoms such as worthlessness, indecisiveness, indifference, trouble concentrating and poor memory.

Research at the John Hopkins University Hospital has shown that 25% of cancer patients have these symptoms. Among them, patients with rare cancers, such as mesothelioma, are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety. It is important to point out that feelings of sadness and remorsefulness are normal. The main reason why medical experts and physicians regard them as major concerns is their persistent nature and prolonged periods of affliction.

What methods are useful for managing anxiety?

The anxiety symptoms can be managed just like the other non-cancer related anxiety, but with a different approach. Professional care entails several procedures of anxiety control.

Therapy: Therapy is the most basic management approach to anxiety. It involves exposing the patient to communication that would make him/her accept mesothelioma with less apprehension. Therapy may mean finding closure in group discussions or interpersonal conversations on social media platforms.

Antidepressant medication: Antidepressants are used along with psychotherapy to help patients approach their deepest fears. Some of the medicines that can be prescribed by a physician are serotonin inhibitors, ketamine, and tricyclic antidepressants to name but a few.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation: This option is performed when a patient fails to respond to therapy and medication. It involves activating brain activity by magnetic waves. It is safe, painless, noninvasive, and easy, has high rates of success, and can be done without sedation.

Complementary and alternative treatment: This is a holistic approach to fighting anxiety from an in-home perspective. It involves a change of lifestyle through dieting, exercising, and a general change of mindset. It is an alternative or complementary approach to the other three methods of anxiety management. For instance, a mesothelioma patient can adapt to the keto diet, start yoga exercises, become religious, and go to spas, massage sessions, and acupuncture. These methods treat the body, mind, and soul; completely transforming a person and putting anxiety at bay as there is no time for fear.

Should I join a Mesothelioma support group?

Yes. A mesothelioma support group is critical for emotional and financial support. As a rare disease, mesothelioma patients tend to perceive that they are suffering alone. However, learning from other survivors’ experiences can be a wakeup call that ushers in a new breath of life in regard to the fight against cancer. Some of the benefits of joining a mesothelioma support group are;

  • It is a warm forum for sharing experiences.
  • Support groups can complement therapy sessions as it is easier to get counselors and motivational speakers to help patients through the treatment journey. The sessions reduce anxiety, self-pity, and even moods.
  • Mesothelioma support groups can share resources with patients. This can be a kind gesture given that insurance does not cover some of the related costs.

A mesothelioma support group is critical in giving patients the confidence to move on with their lives, share their experiences and get motivation. This complements the efforts of family, therapists, friends, and doctors in general.

Robert SteinbergOvercoming Anxiety When Living with Mesothelioma
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