Dealing with Natural Disasters as a Mesothelioma Patient
With the weather getting wilder, natural disasters have been on the news—and in our daily lives—much more frequently. Many governmental and nonprofit organizations have actively encouraged people to prepare for these events, and even put out checklists to help the average person effectively protect themselves and their families in the event of a natural disaster.
Many of these guides include basic Emergency Preparedness items, such as:
- Having a physical evacuation and/or shelter-in-place plan from your home, and knowing the scenarios in which it is safer to evacuate as well as those in which it is safer to shelter-in-place (in case you are unable to access official instructions).
- Having a plan to communicate if phone lines go down (such as social media or messaging apps).
- Keeping all official or important documents in one accessible place, ideally in a waterproof bag or folder, and having digital copies of all documents readily accessible online.
- Keeping an emergency natural disaster supply kit in your home. These can be purchased readymade or assembled individually. Good things to include in these kits include non-perishable food, water, cash, a flashlight, a first aid kit, prescription medications, masks, hand sanitizer, a whistle or airhorn, local maps, and spare eyeglasses.
These are all excellent tips, and plans that have pieces of advice like the ones above are a great place to start.
However, if you are a mesothelioma patient or loved one, these checklists may not be sufficient. Mesothelioma patients have many specific needs that aren’t usually covered by standard disaster preparedness planning tools. That’s why we put together this list of supplemental disaster preparedness tips that focus specifically on the needs of mesothelioma patients, so that you can get as close as possible to covering all necessary bases.
- Discuss alternate treatment plans with your team. If you live in an area that is especially prone to natural disasters, or if you have a treatment or procedure scheduled during a forecasted emergency, it is wise to cover all bases and identify alternate treatment plans. That way, if your planned treatment becomes impossible due to a weather event, you may be able to schedule an appointment to get your treatment or procedure at a facility outside of the potential disaster zone.
- Make a plan with your medical team to communicate and coordinate continued care: It is always a great idea to have a clear line of communication between yourself and your mesothelioma care team. This is especially essential in the event of last-minute emergencies. With an accessible line of communication open, you will be able to contact your care team and get information and advice about how best to protect yourself and continue your treatment in the face of a natural disaster.
- Have your treatments and medications documented, along with important numbers. Make sure to have a “cheat sheet” about your mesothelioma care with you at all times. This can be a piece of paper or booklet (ideally laminated or otherwise waterproofed) with your specific diagnosis, the names and contact information of your care team, and your full list of medications. You should also include a full copy of your insurance information, and information about clinical trials you’re participating in (if applicable).
- Try to get extra medication refills. If a natural disaster is forecasted, try to have your doctor send you additional prescriptions or refills of your medications so that you can stock up. While this may not be possible for all of your medications, it is usually helpful to at least have extra refills on file at a chain pharmacy that can be refilled outside of the disaster area if need be.Mesothelioma patients should always keep their medication doses on schedule if possible, and having an extra supply may become necessary depending on the scope and duration of the emergency event.
- Have additional safety supplies for group shelter scenarios. In some cases, people are instructed to evacuate to group shelters in the event of a natural disaster. In case of such an evacuation order, you should prepare necessary PPE in order to keep yourself as safe as possible from COVID-19 and other contagions, which can be especially harmful to mesothelioma patients.Consider having a store of PPE on hand, including alcohol-based sanitizer, high-quality masks and/or respirators, bottled water, and disposable medical gloves.
- Contact the Cancer Information Service: The CIS has resources available to mesothelioma patients going through a natural disaster. They can help with disaster prep, can give updates on potential closures and re-openings of treatment centers, and can help organize and provide references to alternative treatment centers if needed. They can be reached toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
Are you or a loved one looking for more information about mesothelioma? Call (855) 385-9532 to learn more.