Monday, April 22, 2013
Supporting A Partner with Mesothelioma
Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of devastation when a spouse is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer with no known cure.
But you can prepare for the fight you are about to face. Just ask Geri Lepore of California, who in 2012 lost her husband Gene only 15 months after he was first diagnosed and had his prognosis.
“When I look back now, I realize it became a love story for us,” Geri said in an interview with Asbestos.com. “It was my greatest joy to take care of my husband through sickness and health. It was truly, unconditional love. For that, I’ll always be thankful.”
While Gene provided the hope and optimism until the end, Geri brought both the emotional and physical support he needed. Instead of relying entirely on the advice of doctors and nurses, Geri learned everything she could about the disease, which was caused by an exposure to asbestos in his workplace decades before.
Eventually, she understood how mesothelioma worked, and the best way to manage it as his primary caregiver. Knowledge was power. Knowledge gave them strength and confidence in what they were doing.They never hid from what needed to be done, and they refused to be afraid. They rode the emotional rollercoaster that became their life together every step of the way for 15 months.
Mesothelioma Changes Caregivers, Too
Like many caregivers of this disease, Geri underwent her own transformation. For years, she relied on Gene for so many things. She then assumed that role. He relied on her.
She handled his daily regimen of medications, getting him to his treatment sessions, taking care of his hygiene and his appointments. She took over the bill-paying. Near the end, she gave him baths and fed him.
She probably did more than even she would advise other spouses to do, and it wore her down physically. It took her more than a year to recover and return to her once active lifestyle.
There is no “best way” for spouses to deal with this diagnosis. Everybody reacts differently to difficult medical news.
But there are tips that medical experts agree can help. Among them:
· Lean on others for help. Don’t try to do this alone.
· Find time to get away. You will need to refresh your mind and body.
· Find a support group. Share experiences. Learning that others have walked this journey before you really helps.
· Take care of yourself. Eat healthy. Exercise.
· Read everything you can about mesothelioma. Get second and third opinions. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions of the doctor(s).
Gene and Geri Lepore Named Their Adversary
Gene called his cancer “Mr. Meso,” giving a name to an adversary that he and Geri could battle. That allowed all the negative feeling and emotions to be transferred outside their loving family.
“There was a time I was angry. It was easier to attack Mr. Meso,” Geri said
Geri read the Bible. She prayed. She never lost faith. A reading from Corinthians became her daily prayer each morning. “Love is patience, love is kind . . .“ Geri discovered a strength and willpower she never knew she had. She was sitting bedside when Gene took his last breath.
“It (care-giving) was a 24/7 job, but I’m a better person for it now,” she said.
Guest Writer for LITTOC is: Tim Povtak is a senior writer for Asbestos.com. He spends time each day talking with people who are dealing with mesothelioma, their spouses and the physicians who research and treat the disease.