The acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment process typically involves two chemotherapy stages: induction and consolidation. During these stages, doctors try to reduce and eliminate the leukemia cells in the blood.

Most people undergoing this treatment will spend time in the hospital. At home, you may feel very different as you navigate emotional and physical changes.

Apart from how the treatment makes you feel, there are often side effects that can make your body vulnerable to infection.

Sometimes, you may feel that the process is overwhelming and isolating. It’s OK to have those feelings.

Practicing self-care can make it easier for you to manage AML treatment. It can also give you the strength needed to support and protect your body during this time.

Here are some self-care tips to help you better navigate AML treatment.

AML treatment may affect your food preferences and appetite. The National Cancer Institute offers a guide for managing diet through cancer treatment.

Cancer treatment also sometimes affects taste and smell. You may find that things smell different or that you have a weaker sense of smell in general. Food might not have much taste at all, or it might taste too sweet or salty.

Try to find different ways to get the protein, calories, and nutrients you need. Sauces, gravies, and smoothies may be more tolerable when you experience nausea or mouth soreness.

Adjusting the amount of fiber in your diet can also help you manage digestive changes.

If you find that you don’t have much of an appetite, try having smaller, more frequent meals instead of having three larger meals a day.

You may also want to continue set family mealtimes and eating with others. Sometimes this can be challenging, but it can serve as a way to take your mind off of treatment. You may enjoy the social activity and the comfort of staying with your regular routine.

You may not feel like exercising during AML treatment, but many find that moderate activity helps relieve fatigue. It can also help stop muscle loss and maintain strength while you’re undergoing cancer therapy.

Ask your doctor for tips on exercising safely during treatment. For example, you may want to avoid activity that exposes your body to potential infection if you have neutropenia, which is a shortage of neutrophils, a kind of white blood cell.

If you’re wary of starting a fitness routine, there are small ways you can start incorporating physical activity into your daily life. Gardening, cooking, short walks, and choosing stairs over the elevator are all options you may want to consider to remain active.

AML diagnosis and treatment can trigger many emotional responses. Shock, anger, fear, loss, sadness, anxiety, and isolation are all common reactions. Some people might try to stay positive, but to others, this might seem like an unrealistic burden.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people talk about their feelings instead of forcing themselves to always act optimistic. Support groups or counseling can give you a place where your own emotions are respected and honored without judgment.

It may help to know that the relationship between emotions and cancer can be complex. A 2020 study in Brazil found that people with cancer and their caregivers were happier than those not experiencing cancer.

The study concluded that although people with cancer had more challenges, they perceived life differently than those not going through the illness.

Speak with your healthcare professional if you’re experiencing mental health effects due to AML. Your doctor may be able to connect you to community support.

They may also prescribe adjunct therapy during and following cancer treatment. This may include talk therapy or medication to manage mental health symptoms.

Living with cancer is stressful for most people. You can take steps to try to manage the effects of stress on your life.

Some options might include:

  • talking about your feelings with others who listen without judgment
  • writing about your experiences in a journal
  • engaging in moderate exercises like yoga, tai chi, or walking
  • using complementary therapies like massage or acupuncture, in consultation with your healthcare team
  • practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation and bringing your attention to the present

If you’re experiencing stress, speak with your doctor. They can help you work through other ways to manage stress during treatment. Sometimes, the simple act of reaching out can provide some relief from stress.

Changes to sleep patterns are a common side effect of cancer treatment. Many people experience insomnia from medication, routine changes, stress, and time in hospital.

Quality sleep is important for your mental and physical health. It can help support your immune system and heart health and give you clarity of mind.

Some ways you can work on your own toward better sleep include:

  • trying relaxation techniques like guided imagery and meditation
  • engaging in good sleep practices like going to bed only when you’re tired and turning off electronics several hours before bed
  • speaking with a therapist about creating the right mental state for sleep

Your doctor can help you manage any specific causes that may disrupt your sleep. For example, if you’re living with pain as a result of cancer treatment, there may be options like medication or talk therapy that can help you get sufficient rest.

Your friends and family are an important source of support during cancer treatment, but everyone needs a break, including the person living with the diagnosis.

When you feel well enough to have some downtime, consider a day with loved ones that’s “AML-free,” when you focus on things other than the illness.

It can be something as simple as a movie marathon or a day at the beach where you turn your attention to other aspects of living.

Living with cancer can take a physical and a mental toll. Eating, sleeping, and living well are all possible during AML treatment. Reducing stress, honoring your feelings, and spending time with loved ones can contribute to better overall well-being.

Self-care can help you feel better and make it easier to manage the stages of AML treatment. Speak with your doctor about making a plan for maintaining your quality of life during AML treatment.