Welcome to the final edition of our 5 part blog series: The Mesothelioma Journey. Each week we recreated the mesothelioma survivor journey of Allen, a 65-year-old from Corpus Christi, Texas. We followed Allen’s journey from the first contact with asbestos to treatment for pleural mesothelioma. Now, we conclude his mesothelioma journey by sharing his survivor story.
Start from the beginning of the mesothelioma journey: asbestos exposure risks
Post-Treatment Actions For Survivors
Patients who have completed treatment will continue attending follow-up appointments so that the doctor can keep a close eye on possible cancerous activity. During these visits, the doctor will ask questions about symptoms and do an examination.
The doctor may order blood tests and imaging tests, such as CT scans and PET scans. These tests can determine a possible return of cancer. Post-treatment checkups typically start frequently, but the time in-between visits may stretch further with no activity.
Allen visits his doctor for his first post-treatment checkup. His doctor gives him a physical exam, followed by an order for a CT scan. Allen appears to be in good health, and the CT images show no sign of recurrence.
Patients undergoing post-treatment care can be proactive by learning the symptoms that could indicate cancer has returned. Patients who experience long-lasting or chronic side effects can learn how to manage symptoms.
Survivorship Care Plan For Mesothelioma Survivors
A survivorship care plan enables cancer survivors to receive individualized guidelines for monitoring and maintaining their health during and after treatment. Care plans for mesothelioma survivors can significantly improve their quality of life.
A good survivorship plan includes treatments, future medical care needs, and details about the patient communicated with their health care providers. Survivorship plans include other important information, including:
- Suggested schedule for follow-up exams and appointment reminders
- Schedule of future detection tests
- Individualized diet and exercise recommendations
- Possible long-term side effects from mesothelioma treatment
During his treatment, Allen worked with his oncologist and primary care doctor to develop an individualized survivorship care plan. His plan includes personalized diet and exercise routines specific to his current state of health, and a schedule of appointments and exams.
Staying Healthy After Mesothelioma Treatment
Staying healthy and managing side effects are good actions to take when recovering from mesothelioma. A care team made up of nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants can offer help with pain management and other advice to ensure the comfort of a patient following treatment.
Registered Dietitians or physical therapists can offer additional help with recovery. Staying healthy with proper nutrition and exercise suited to individual needs can improve recovery. Using aftercare for nutrition and exercise can also improve a patient’s quality of life.
Allen’s aggressive mesothelioma treatment hasn’t dulled his love for fishing. He enjoys being able to stay active while benefiting mentally. Regular fishing, short walks, and lifting weights keep his body in the best shape while he recovers.
Other forms of therapies can help relieve stress and improve the mental health of post-treatment patients. These complementary therapies may include acupuncture, massages, ozone therapy, and meditation.
Support for Mesothelioma Survivors and Their Families
For many survivors, life after mesothelioma causes fear, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Support groups and community organizations are available to provide sympathy, understanding, or encouragement for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.
Allen joins a local cancer survivor support group. The in-person group of survivors of various forms of cancer meets weekly. Survivors share their experiences and provide support for one another. Allen also stays connected with mesothelioma survivors across the country. He is part of an online community that shares coping strategies, inspiration, support, or discussion topics.
Support group resources:
Types of Remission
Survivor is a term used by doctors for all patients living with mesothelioma, whether currently undergoing treatment or in remission. A patient can achieve two types of mesothelioma remission: partial remission and complete remission.
Partial remission is the decrease in the size of tumors or a significant decrease overall of cancer in the body. A partial remission typically means a 50% reduction in tumor size. A reduction in tumor sizes must last for at least one month to be considered a partial remission.
Complete remission means the cancer is no longer present in the body after treatment. A patient can remain in remission if CT scans and blood tests do not detect cancer. Complete remission is more common among patients in lower stages of cancer.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma survival rates among patients indicate a recurrence of cancer is almost inevitable. Cancer can be controlled for months or even years with successful treatment and careful attention to recurrence symptoms.
Allen is in partial remission, meaning his cancer has significantly been reduced and is under control. It’s too early to tell whether or not Allen’s cancer will begin recurring, but he’ll continue following his survivorship care plan with regular doctor’s appointments and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Journey Comes to an End. For Now.
Thank you for following Allen’s mesothelioma journey. We hope that you can find insight and hope within our articles and urge you to reach out with any questions these stories may have stirred up. If you’d like to review the journey, please follow the below links to our previous blog posts.
Review part one of the Mesothelioma Journey: Was I Exposed?
Rewind to part two of the Mesothelioma Journey: Do I Have Symptoms?
Read part three of the Mesothelioma Journey: Mesothelioma Diagnosis.