Self-care for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is very important. Taking good care of yourself while coping with mesothelioma can not only extend your life but enhance the quality of the life you are living. Below are some tips for mesothelioma sufferers and their caregivers.
Full disclosure is vital
It’s been said that people should always tell the truth to their lawyers and doctors, and there is a reason for that. Doctors need to do a full environmental exposure history and physical exam that should include both lung function tests and chest x-rays. Your attorney will need the names of all past employers, supervisors and coworkers to corroborate allegations of workplace exposures to asbestos.
Remember that just because you might not grasp the significance of some symptom or detail related to a former employment situation does not mean that it isn’t important to your medical treatment and legal matters. Don’t get caught up in second-guessing yourself; revealing all lets the chips fall where they may to be sorted by others with plenty of experience on the battlefront fighting this deadly disease.
Develop good self-care habits
There are two main things that anyone who has had an asbestos exposure should do:
- Get annual flu and pneumonia shots to reduce the risk of contracting a debilitating lung infection.
- If you smoke, quit. Cigarette smokers with prior asbestos exposures have a much higher rate of developing malignancies.
Getting inoculated and kicking the habit can potentially stave off the onset of mesothelioma. But those already diagnosed are not without options, either. Also important are:
- Keeping up with your fluid intake. Unless contraindicated by your oncologist, try to drink six 8 oz. glasses of water each day.
- Eating healthfully by consuming plenty of veggies and fruits and cutting back on salty foods and seasonings.
- Limiting your exposure to large crowds that could increase your risk of contracting colds and other respiratory bugs.
- As tolerated, participating in an exercise program for lung and heart health.
- Getting plenty of sleep at night and recognizing the restorative value of short catnaps during the day to combat fatigue.
- Maintaining meticulous hygiene practices, e.g., washing hands frequently and always before handling oxygen supplies and medicines.
Managing your respiratory equipment
Medical devices and oxygen supplies can easily become contaminated with bacteria that can exacerbate the effects of mesothelioma. All respiratory therapy items must be properly cleaned a minimum of two times per week. Any reusable equipment such as nebulizers, ventilator circuitry, peak flow meters and aerosol tubing should be cleaned according to manufacturer’s directions. Prior to re-assembly, all parts should be thoroughly dried, as moist environments are the perfect breeding ground for the formation of fungi, bacteria and viruses.
Avoid environmental triggers
While your initial asbestos exposure was inadvertent, when you are aware of your diagnosis, it is important to limit or avoid entirely adverse environmental conditions that can worsen your health. Those who live in areas where there is a great deal of air pollution should remain inside when the pollution index climbs. The same is true for patients when the pollen count is high, as pollen is a major allergen. Those particularly susceptible to airborne irritants might want to invest in a device that filters air inside the house or apartment and improves the air quality.
Even if you don’t smoke yourself, hanging out in bars and other enclosed areas like vehicles breathing others’ secondhand smoke is almost as detrimental. If you live with family members who smoke, insist that they do so outside. Even better, ask them to quit.
When the mercury on the thermometer plummets, it’s a good idea to cover the nose and mouth with a scarf when outdoors. Breathing through the nose is also easier on the lungs in cold weather.
There are many pollutants that trigger episodes of shortness of breath, otherwise known as dyspnea. They include:
- Aerosol vapors
- Chemical fumes from cleaning agents, kerosene and paint
- Emissions from cars and trucks
While it might not be possible to avoid all triggers all of the time, being mindful of air pollution warnings and environmental risks and avoiding exposures whenever possible is a wise course of action. If you live in an area where the air is quite dry, you may need to use a humidifier to thin out the mucus lining your lungs.
Your doctor’s role in your treatment
While there currently is no cure for mesothelioma, your oncologist and primary care physician still play important roles in the management and treatment of your condition. They can treat your symptoms as they manifest and lower the likelihood of your experiencing complications from the disease.
Patients can learn how to cough productively to reduce the strain of clogged airways. When mucus plugs up the respiratory tract, airflow is drastically reduced and it becomes harder to dislodge infection-laden bacteria. Dry, hacking coughs also wear out the sufferer and can cause intense chest pain.
A few sessions with a respiratory therapist can show patients the best ways to clear the mucus from their lungs using percussion on the chest to break up secretions. There are also breathing techniques that can be beneficial to those with mesothelioma.
Role of your asbestos cancer attorney
Your attorney is your advocate in all legal matters. He or she drafts and files the litigation that can generate a lucrative settlement offer. Should that not be forthcoming from the defendant(s), your attorney is prepared to take it to trial and fight for your legal right to compensation for the asbestos exposure you experienced through no fault of your own while on the job. An asbestos attorney will have occupational and medical experts ready to testify on your behalf about your work exposure and the debilitating cancer diagnosis that resulted from it.
In some cases, a patient’s spouse can be included as a defendant for the loss of consortium he or she experiences due to the exposed worker’s declining health. Loss of future wages can also have an impact on the lives of any children, and they, too, may be named as plaintiffs. Your asbestos cancer attorney will know how to best craft your lawsuit to pursue maximum compensation.