Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be scary. With so few long-term options, you can feel isolated, alone, and fearful. But there is good news. With smart and proactive decision-making, you can improve your quality of life and still enjoy the time you have.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that makes up the majority of the human’s most important organs. It’s a very aggressive and deadly type of cancer. And while treatment options are available for many, there’s no known cure at this time.

“Doctors divide mesothelioma into different types based on what part of the mesothelium is affected,” Mayo Clinic explains. “Mesothelioma most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura). This type is called pleural mesothelioma. Other, rarer types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), around the heart and around the testicles.”

One of the big problems with mesothelioma is that symptoms often aren’t noticeable until after the cancer has progressed into stage 3 or stage 4. At this point, the condition becomes extremely uncomfortable. For those with late-stage pleural mesothelioma, symptoms include:

Night sweats
Difficulty swallowing
Coughing up blood
Face or arm swelling
Chest pain

For those with peritoneal mesothelioma – which accounts for roughly 20 percent of cases – symptoms like abdominal fluid buildup, stomach pain, weight loss, constipation, and loss of appetite are common. 

4 Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

Maintaining a positive and comfortable quality of life with mesothelioma is possible for many. It comes down to making smart choices. Here are some thoughts on how to improve your quality of life:

1. Get a Tailored Treatment Plan

Each individual with mesothelioma is unique – their treatment plan should be too. Work closely with your medical team to develop a plan that targets your specific condition while taking into account your overall health and personal circumstances. 

This might involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these. The goal is to control the disease progression, manage symptoms, and minimize side effects as much as possible.

2. Pay Attention to Finances

It might sound silly to think about something as trivial as money when you’re struggling with a grim diagnosis, but consider the relationship between money and mental health. Medical bills associated with mesothelioma treatment aren’t cheap. If you find yourself in a challenging financial or legal situation, seek out guidance from a counselor who specializes in helping cancer patients. (And if you suspect your mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to seek legal compensation. Speak with an attorney to learn more about your options.)

3. Exercise as Much as Possible

Okay, you’re probably thinking, “Exercise?! How do I exercise when I don’t feel good?”

It’s a fair question. And, to be honest, the answer is entirely dependent on your symptoms (which might change from day to day). Having said that, there are certain fitness routines and forms of exercise that are more beneficial than others. Activities like yoga, aerobics, swimming, and resistance band workouts are great. 

Working out does a few things for you. First, it releases pain-killing endorphins that may neutralize some of your painful symptoms and help you feel better. Secondly, activity strengthens your immune system and gives your body the “ammunition” it needs to fight back.

While light exercise is generally considered safe for those with mesothelioma, you should always consult your doctor and medical team before starting any new workout routine. They can point you in the right direction.

4. Pay Attention to Your Diet

A balanced diet can help strengthen your immune system, maintain your weight, and enhance your ability to cope with treatments. Special dietary needs may arise due to mesothelioma or its treatments, such as the need for extra protein to repair cells or managing nausea with specific foods. A registered dietitian who understands the unique needs of cancer patients can be an invaluable part of your healthcare team.

Adding it All Up

The long-term prospects of mesothelioma aren’t great. That’s not encouraging, but it is the facts. With that being said, you don’t have to be miserable and isolated. There are ways to improve your quality of life and find support. 

Hopefully, this article has encouraged you to pursue some of these options.