Coping with mesothelioma

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

How mesothelioma can affect you physically

Mesothelioma and its treatment might cause changes in your body. These changes can sometimes be difficult to cope with. You might have symptoms such as a cough or breathlessness.

Surgery might cause scarring and you may have pain in the area for some months afterwards. Such body changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends.

Another problem you might have to cope with is feeling very tired and lethargic a lot of the time, especially for a while after treatment.

If you are having a sexual relationship, one or all of these changes might affect your sex life.

Compensation and claiming benefits

Most cases of mesothelioma are related to exposure to asbestos. If you know you were exposed to asbestos at work, you might be able to claim compensation from your employer at the time of the exposure. It may be helpful for you and your family to have some extra funds to help you to cope with the illness and its treatment.

If you are interested in making a compensation claim, you can ask your specialist nurse or social worker for advice. Your doctor will be able to provide medical reports to support your claim. They may suggest contacting a solicitor who specialises in asbestos disease claims.

You can also get advice and information from various support organisations.

You might be able to claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). IIDB is a benefit that you can claim if your disability was caused by your work. Or you might be able to make a claim for a one off payment under the Pneumoconiosis Etc (Workers' compensation) Act.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.

Coping practically

You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Our coping practically section has more information about all these issues. 

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