Wellness > Effect on Family and Friends

A mesothelioma diagnosis affects the patient's entire family. One of the first questions that comes to mind after you have absorbed the news yourself is, "Who should I tell?". Most people have found that the best choice is to share the diagnosis with those closest to them, and give them the opportunity to offer support. It will be your personal decision as to when this should be done.


Your spouse may be frightened by your diagnosis, and may feel many of the same emotions as you feel; helplessness, anxiety, and sadness. Some spouses may go into denial and may not wish to discuss the illness. If you have problems talking about your illness with your spouse, you may wish to consult a professional counselor.

Ideally, your spouse should be a participant in discussions with your doctors regarding your treatment and the progression of mesothelioma. Knowledge of the facts and the feeling that he or she is part of the process, can lessen anxiety. Your spouse will also need to know how he or she will be involved in your care and what decisions will have to be made.

Adult Children

Even as an adult, a child may find it difficult to cope with a parent's cancer. The dynamics of the parent-child relationship may become reversed as the children become supporters both emotionally and financially. Adult children with their own families and careers may feel guilty about having a limited amount of time to spend with you, or may live in other parts of the country where frequent visits are not possible.

Your children may also be afraid of expressing feelings of anger or resentment over your diagnosis, and might want reassurance that their feelings are acceptable. It is important to work through these issues. It will also be important for them to know what role they will play in any decisions regarding your care or finances.


If you have elderly parents living with you, and they have been relying on you for support and help as they age, your mesothelioma diagnosis may disrupt their life also. While you are undergoing treatment, it may become necessary to shift your caregiving responsibilities to other family members or to health care professionals.


Friends can be a great source of support when you have mesothelioma. While some friends may find it difficult to discuss your disease, you may discover hidden strengths in the least likely of companions. Many times friends are waiting for a clue from you as to what behavior is appropriate. For instance, they may call to check on you and say, "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help." Most people are grateful if there is something concrete they can do to show their friendship. When they offer assistance, look at the offer positively, and allow them to run a specific errand, or complete a specific chore. Some days, it might be pleasant just to have their company, other days you may not feel up to having visitors. Be open and honest in your communications, and you will both benefit.

Mesothelioma can often be emotionally painful for family members, especially in the late stages, when the patient often experiences delerium.

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