To aid people with mesothelioma and other forms of cancer, The Mesethelioma Resource Web presents these helpful tips.

I. Communicating with your doctor

Many mesethelioma patients find it difficult to communicate with their oncologist. Although it's sometimes tough to talk about your illness, you should remember. Your doctor has seen other ill patients and he or she will probably not be offended by your questions or comments.

Ideas for improving the communications:

  1. Have a list of specific questions that you want answered. Sending the list to the physician in advance might be helpful.
  2. Be prepared to take notes. Bring a pencil and notebook to all meetings and examinations.
  3. Ask for copies of all consent forms.
  4. Ask for the details of your diagnosis
  5. Ask what the proposed course of treatment will accomplish.
  6. Ask for copies and explanations of treatment 'road maps'.
  7. Bring someone with you. Studies have shown that patients under stress remember very little about their conversations with the doctor. A friend or relative can keep you grounded and act as your advocate. Many doctors work closely with other medical professionals. Be sure to ask if there is anyone else to meet and/or if there are phone numbers to contact those who might be able to provide additional information.

II. Nutrition and Diet

Your diet is always an important factor in your health, but it is especially important when you are ill. Eating the right kinds and amounts of foods can help you feel better and become stronger. Surgery or radiation therapy increase the need for most nutrients - especially protein. Other treatments including chemotherapy, dialysis and even some medications may result in nutrient imbalances that require specific replacement.

Many cancer patients lose their appetites. Others do not enjoy eating because they have a dry or sore mouth or throat, experience nausea and vomiting, or are constipated. Because of illness or medication you may even experience changes in how things taste. Worry and fear may also contribute to loss of appetite.

Proper nutrition can help you feel better during treatment and can be an ally in living with the disease. However, it is important to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about specific ways to meet your individual needs - especially if you are losing weight and strength.

Changing needs

Because your nutritional needs change during extended illness, your diet may need to change as well. The health care community recommends a general diet to all adults that is low in fat and includes small portions of meat and dairy products and more grains, fruits and vegetables.

However, with diminished appetite during illness or therapy, it may not be possible to eat as much even though your need for calories and protein has increased. Your doctor or nurse or dietician may advise that you concentrate on eating more meat, dairy products and fats in order to consume enough protein and calories. You may even need to cut back on fruits, vegetables and grains (which are lower in protein and calories) in order to eat enough of these other foods.

Also, during treatment or when living with chronic cancer, your doctor or dietitian may also recommend a special diet. These diets are intended to compensate for a particular deficiency you may be experiencing and to help meet your specific nutritional needs. Special diets could be assigned for the long term or for short time periods to address acute needs. Sometimes a preprepared nutritional formula may be recommended. At other times, vitamin and mineral supplements may be prescribed. Your health care provider should decide whether you need a special diet, a nutritional formula, or vitamin and mineral supplements - and for how long.

III. Back to Work

Many people stricken with serious illness are anxious to get back to work to help bring back a feeling of normalcy. In addition to income, work provides psychic benefits such as a feeling of accomplishment and a way to concentrate on something else. Further, people need to connect with their co-workers, and return to a connection to the workaday world. Many people don't realize how much they miss the workplace until they leave it.

Of course, returning to the workplace after an absence for illness can create stress within the workplace, too. Like family and friends, co-workers often don't know how to act around you. They're often uncomfortable and don't know whether to talk to you about the disease and your treatment, or not. Many cancer patients find that it they have to ease the social situation and be open about their condition and struggles.

Some need to adjust their hours or duties, especially if they are undergoing treatment. If your job is one that demands physical stamina or strength, you may not be able to perform it in a safe manner during or after treatment. Ask your employer if you can be reassigned to a different job.

If the illness makes it impossible for you to return to your old job, you may wish to pursue other employment or take up a time-consuming hobby. Many communities have rehabilitation and retraining programs.

It is against federal law for employers to discriminate against people with cancer or other disabilities. The law protects you when it comes to layoffs, promotions, and hiring.

Further, your family member is protected if he or she takes time off from work to care for you. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family members to care for children, parents, or spouses with serious illnesses. Employers must continue to provide benefits during this time.

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