6 Healthy Habits for Seniors with Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that predominately affects men 60 years and older.
Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma, which usually develops in the protective lining of the lungs (pleura) and abdomen (peritoneal). It can take decades for symptoms to appear, but once they do, the cancer is aggressive and can quickly spread to other organs.
The treatment options and cancer prognosis depend on the stage and type of cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Seniors often have much more difficulty with mesothelioma compared to younger patients. This usually can be attributed to factors such as weaken immune systems and pre-existing medical conditions.
While many seniors may be ineligible for some treatments and surgeries, there are certain measures anyone living with mesothelioma can take to increase survival rates and improve overall quality of life.
Quality nutrition is essential for anyone battling cancer or any chronic disease. Cancer patients often experience weight loss and fatigue. A well-balanced, healthy diet can increase muscle mass and strength and improve mood. It can also help you fight off infection and recover more quickly from side effects of common cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Creating and maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle can be difficult for anyone, especially cancer patients who may have strict dietary restrictions. A dietitian can help you navigate the process.
It may be difficult to even consider exercising when dealing with the symptoms and treatments of mesothelioma. Patients often deal with fatigue and breathlessness, but oncologists highly recommend exercise during cancer treatment and recovery. You may think physical activity would make you even more weak and tired, but it actually lessens fatigue and improves mood, sleep, cardiorespiratory fitness and mental health. Studies show that exercise can also increase a person’s chance of completing treatments — physically and psychologically.
Mesothelioma patients, especially seniors, must avoid inactivity, which often leads to muscle weakness, poor appetite and fatigue. Oncologists recommend regular exercise, but that’s not always possible for some patients. Talk to your doctor to develop a safe and effective exercise regimen, and remember that something as simple as household chores or walking can be beneficial. Seniors living with mesothelioma can practice low-impact exercises such as yoga, tai chi and lightweight strength training. Generally, all people with mesothelioma, especially seniors, should avoid high-impact exercises such as CrossFit, long-distant running or cycling and heavy weightlifting.
It seems simple, but staying positive and optimistic about the future is important. This is obviously easier said than done, but a positive attitude can actually improve your outlook and how you handle treatments. As we mentioned, nutrition and regular physical activity can play a key role in your mood. Having a caring, motivational support system of family, friends and medical professionals is also important.
This seems like a no brainer, but getting quality rest is essential to recovery. Mesothelioma and common treatments lead to fatigue, breathing difficulties and restlessness. These factors obviously make getting a good night’s sleep challenging, but practicing these healthy habits will help. Quality sleep will help lessen fatigue and improve your overall mood.
Connect with Others
Having a support system is important, but sometimes, family, friends and doctors might not fully understand what you’re going through. There are several mesothelioma support groups and numerous other support groups for all people living with cancer. Connecting with other survivors, learning their stories and sharing experiences can be greatly beneficial to your recovery. Additionally, there are a variety of free resources available to help you through your recovery, including finding a qualified mesothelioma specialist, finding a support group near your home and helping you navigate certain legal options you may have.
Mesothelioma doesn’t have to be a death sentence, and it doesn’t have to completely change your way of life. Use your mesothelioma diagnosis to motivate you to do the things you love. Pick up a hobby if you don’t already have one. Even if you can’t swing a cross-country trip or physically endure a round of golf, try planning little projects each month to give yourself something to look forward to. For inspiration, The Mesothelioma Center’s “Wall of Hope” features dozens of stories of survivors living their lives to the fullest.
Each of these healthy habits is important on its own, but together they can significantly improve your way of life and increase your survival time.