I’ve been living with multiple myeloma since 2009. I was familiar with the disease when I received the diagnosis. My first wife passed away from the disease in 1997. While there is no cure for multiple myeloma, advancements in treatment have made it possible for people with this cancer to live longer, healthier lives.
Being told you have cancer can feel overwhelming. The following tips have helped me manage my multiple myeloma, and can hopefully make your journey a little easier, too.
1. Keep a sense of humor
After you’re told you have cancer, it can be tough to find any humor in things. But life is full of many ironies and oddities. Even if it’s dark humor, sometimes it helps to laugh. In the hardest times, a little bit of laughter can give us the strength we need to go forward.
I’ve actually performed standup comedy. I wrote a routine about what not to say to someone when you find out they have multiple myeloma.
2. Don’t blame yourself
It’s completely natural to wonder, why me? But getting multiple myeloma isn’t your fault. You’re likely feeling many emotions right now, but guilt shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t blame yourself for your multiple myeloma.
3. Get a second opinion
Multiple myeloma is a serious disease. After you’ve been diagnosed, your priority is your health. To make sure you’re on the right treatment plan, it’s in your best interest to get a second medical opinion about your diagnosis.
Your doctor won’t be offended or take it personally if you see another doctor about your symptoms.
4. Be mindful about what you read on the internet
While it’s helpful to do research on multiple myeloma to educate yourself, keep in mind that not everything you read is medically reviewed. It’s OK to look for advice or tips from bloggers and groups on the internet. However, you should always check with your doctor before trying anything new.
Also, don’t get wrapped up in statistics about your condition. You’re not an average.
5. Ask for help
In the early stages, take someone with you to your doctor’s appointments to take notes. It’s helpful to have an extra set of ears present in case you miss something. Don’t pressure yourself to remember it all on your own. You have so much on your plate, it’s OK to ask for help.
6. Give back
Advocating for multiple myeloma or volunteering for a nonprofit organization is a great way to find community and avoid isolation. Having cancer takes over your life. It can be nice to take your mind off your disease and connect with others.
I’m very involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). I also volunteer for Mayo Clinic, where I was treated for my cancer. For me, it’s important to raise awareness for multiple myeloma and help those living with the condition find hope and strength to keep fighting.
7. Manage communication
When you’re living with cancer, you have a lot on your plate. You’re likely too overwhelmed to keep people in your life up to date with how you’re doing. To help, consider downloading an app like CaringBridge. The app allows you to post updates and share news in one place where all your loved ones can see it.
8. Be active
Staying active is always important for your health and well-being. Exercise has helped me immensely. I’m a very active cyclist, and I’ve completed numerous 100-mile rides since my diagnosis.
For me, exercise helps me sleep better and eases my anxiety. Being involved in cycling has also brought a few great friends into my life, as well.
When you have cancer, it’s understandable if you feel depressed. You may have a hard time seeing the positive in your life. However, celebrating small victories and practicing gratitude can help strengthen your mind and keep you on the path to healing.
Being diagnosed with cancer is scary and overwhelming. You may not know where to start. Of course, your doctor is always your best source for information. Everyone with multiple myeloma is different, and only your doctor will really know what’s best for you.
Connecting with others to get tips from people who know what you’re going through can also help guide you on your journey. Hopefully, you find these tips as helpful as I have.
Andy Gordon is a multiple myeloma survivor, lawyer, and active cyclist living in Arizona. He wants people living with multiple myeloma to know that there is really a rich, full life beyond a diagnosis.