When a person receives a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer on the membranes that surround internal organs, it can feel hopeless. Patients may hear their doctors tell them that there are no viable mesothelioma therapies and they have only a limited time left to live.
While that may be the story told by statistics, it is not the same story recounted by mesothelioma survivors, many of whom have had to chart their own paths through this rare and poorly-understood cancer.
Surviving Mesothelioma has featured conversations with several of these survivors over the last few months. Here are some of the lessons their experiences can teach other mesothelioma patients.
- Seek a second (or third, or fourth) option – When Jim McHutchison, a 3-year mesothelioma survivor from Maine, was told he had less than a year to live, he went in search of medical centers with more mesothelioma experience and healthcare professionals with a more hopeful outlook. Studies consistently show better mesothelioma survival among people who receive care at larger, academic institutions. McHutchison’s search led him to a physician who help him get on the new immunotherapy drug, Keytruda.
- Follow your instincts – McHutchison knew that he did not want to undergo mesothelioma surgery, even though multiple physicians recommended it. He also worried that the risk of mesothelioma chemotherapy would be greater than the benefits, so he turned that down, as well. Likewise, Andy Ashcraft, a six-year mesothelioma survivor from California, elected to end his chemotherapy after the side-effects proved to be too draining.
- Be open to alternative approaches – Andy Ashcraft and Jim McHutchison are examples of mesothelioma patients who searched for alternative treatment modalities for their mesothelioma. Although there are no proven alternative mesothelioma treatments, Ashcraft’s mesothelioma-fighting regimen includes oils, acupuncture, and massage therapy. McHutchison has tried multiple alternative approaches including nutritional therapy, Vitamin C infusions, and the new drug, Keytruda, to help combat his disease.
- Consider a clinical trial – Clinical trials give people suffering from incurable diseases like malignant mesothelioma the opportunity to try new drugs and therapies before they are released to the public. Trial drugs have been safety-tested and have to pass FDA scrutiny before their can be administered to human subjects. A clinical trial can be an especially good option if standard mesothelioma therapies have been ineffective or have stopped working. Andy Ashcraft enrolled in a trial of amatuximab.
- Nourish your body – Multiple studies on cancer have confirmed that stronger bodies are better able to fight cancers like mesothelioma. In addition, treatments like chemotherapy can be draining to the body, which needs special attention during this time. Ashcraft strengthens his body with a variety of natural oils, including cannabis oil, while Jim McHutchison supplements his diet with Budwig’s Protocol, a cancer fighting combination of cottage cheese, flaxseed oil and fruit.
- Stay positive and surround yourself with positivity – All mesothelioma survivors have been through dark times and have had to fight to avoid giving in to anxiety and despair. But those who live longest with mesothelioma tend to be those who maintain positivity as much as possible. This includes surrounding themselves with friends, family, and caregivers who are hopeful and upbeat. Jim McHutchison sought advice from friends who knew other mesothelioma survivors. He also bought his dream car with an upbeat custom license plate.
The cases of Andy Ashcraft, Jim McHutchison, Paul Kraus (the world’s longest-living mesothelioma survivor) and others are proof that mesothelioma survival is possible. For more advice on surviving mesothelioma, click here to claim a free copy of Kraus’s book “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide”.
The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to an existing treatment. You should not delay in seeking or disregard medical advice based on information in this article. Cannabis oil is NOT FDA approved for the treatment of any cancer.