Talking With Your Kids When You Have Mesothelioma

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Cute young daughter embracing her mother with love

Mesothelioma takes between 20 and 50 years to develop. Due to this long latency period, the asbestos-caused cancer affects middle-aged and elderly people most often.

If a patient is in his or her forties or fifties, it’s possible to still have an adolescent living at home. A pre-teen or teenager — or even an early twenties college student — may struggle with the challenges of living with a parent or grandparent with mesothelioma.

If you have mesothelioma, then naturally, you are the person most directly affected by this cancer. However, your friends and family may endure a heavy burden as well. Is there any way you can help your loved ones manage the challenges they’re facing?

Below are four communication tips for mesothelioma patients who have children still living at home with them.

Be Honest and Upfront

Don’t try and hide the truth from your children. If they’re at least in their pre-teens, then they likely have internet access and will look up information on mesothelioma themselves. They should be told what mesothelioma is, how it affects your body, and the reality of your diagnosis. Include them in conversations after doctor appointments.

Lillie Shockney, a two-time cancer survivor and cancer expert, wrote an article on the Conquer magazine website about this topic. She suggests parents steer clear of saying they’ll “be fine” to their adolescent children. She adds, “That is only fooling yourself and, frankly, not fooling them.”

Explain How They Can Help You

As a mesothelioma patient, you likely won’t be able to handle all the responsibilities you once did. Your treatment may make you fatigued, especially if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. Your loved ones must assume at least part of the caregiver role.

You may not be able to complete every household chore or family task. So sit down with your children and explain how they can help you and the rest of the family. They, along with your spouse, will need to assume more responsibilities.

Enlisting help with preparing meals, taking out the trash, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, picking up groceries and other tasks will help preserve your limited energy. Remember to show appreciation for how helpful they’ve been. It’s a definite sign of maturity to step in when they’re needed.

Don’t Force Them to Grow Up Too Fast

While your children should help out more with chores and errands, they shouldn’t fill their schedules with only adult tasks.

“Just because they live in the same house doesn’t mean they need to become you now,” Shockney writes.

She adds that teenagers need “teenager time,” which involves going to the movies or spending time with friends. Pre-teens and college-aged children should also have plenty of time for activities that fit their interests.

A healthy social life is important for adolescent children. You may have to sit down with them and push them to shed their caretaker responsibilities a bit. By doing so, you’re being a good parent.

Be Patient With Their Emotions

Remember, you aren’t the only person affected by your disease. Your friends and family members will experience a range of emotions as they grapple with the news of your diagnosis and prognosis. Mental health affects the patient and his or her caregivers.

Human beings never stop developing emotionally and mentally, but this is especially evident in adolescents. They’re still maturing and may process life-altering news in a different way than you or other adults will. There’s no guide book to predict how your son or daughter will react in the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months after you tell them you have mesothelioma.

Some will get emotional. Others will shut down and close themselves off. Your children may get angry and lash out, possibly targeting their emotions at you or other family members. Be patient with them and understand that the thought of losing their mother or father is the driving force behind their words or actions. They’re just kids, after all, and even the most mature adults struggle with news that they or a loved one has mesothelioma.

At San Diego Home Caregivers, our compassionate caregivers are here to help families navigate life after a diagnosis like cancer. We offer a variety of home care services that can be customized to meet your needs — from assistance with transportation to and from medical appointments and help preparing nutritious meals to respite care and light housekeeping. Contact us today at (619) 487-9000 to learn more about how our in-home care in La Jolla and the surrounding communities can provide you and your family with peace of mind.