Your oncologist and others on your cancer care team will treat Hodgkin lymphoma and any associated side effects. At the same time, there are things you can do on your own to support that care.
Make your physical and emotional health a top priority. It’s a bit of a balancing act, so it helps to set realistic goals when it comes to work and chores.
Here are some ways to help manage Hodgkin lymphoma and improve your quality of life.
The last thing you need is to be scrambling for information when you want answers fast. Create a list of contacts so that when you need them, they’re at your fingertips. On your list, include:
- your oncologist, radiation oncologist, and other members of your cancer care team
- your primary care physician
- family emergency contacts
- babysitters and help with child care
- organizations that provide transportation to treatment
Keep a copy in a handy location, such as on your refrigerator. Give a copy to someone close to you.
Create separate folders, bins, or baskets to keep documents together, such as:
- medical information and test results
- your schedule for doctor visits, treatment appointments, and other therapies
- medical bills and insurance claims
You may also want to gather information from work regarding how much time you have for sick days, vacation days, and medical leave, so you’re not caught off guard.
Solidify your support system
It’s not unusual for people going through cancer treatment to get help from others. When friends and family ask what they can do to help, take them up on it with something specific. Here are a few ways others can support your treatment and recovery:
- accompany you to doctor visits so you don’t miss crucial information
- sit with you through treatments
- provide transportation
- help with the kids
- prep meals
- do household chores
- run errands
- just be there for you
If the items on your to-do list aren’t absolutely essential, it’s OK to let them go for now.
There are a number of free online tools your friends can use to coordinate their efforts. This may help you keep everyone up to date. Some of these are:
Your oncology office can steer you toward local support services. Here are a few other resources you can check out:
- American Cancer Society: Search for support programs and services or call the helpline at 800-227-2345.
- CancerCare: Find Hodgkin Lymphoma support and information online or call 800-813-4673.
- Lymphoma Research Foundation: Look for support programs and services or call 800-500-9976.
Fuel your body with nutritious food
There’s no special diet for Hodgkin lymphoma, but eating well can help you maintain strength and feel better. A healthy diet should include:
- an array of vegetables and fruits
- whole grains
- proteins low in fat such as poultry or lean meat
- fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- healthy oils such as olive oil
You’ll also benefit from limiting your intake of:
- saturated fats
- added sugars
If you have diarrhea or acid reflux, avoid caffeinated beverages.
Talk to your doctor before adding herbal or dietary supplements of any kind, as they can interact with medications. If you’re not able to manage your diet on your own, consult with a registered dietician who works with those undergoing cancer treatment.
Move your body
We all need a certain amount of physical activity. Exercise can help reduce anxiety and fatigue. It’s good for your heart and your overall well-being. It also helps with muscle tone, digestion, and appetite.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start with short daily walks and increase these gradually. On days when even a short walk feels like too much, simple stretching exercises are better than no exercises. You can even do some stretching while you’re still in bed.
Talk to your doctor about what exercises are best for you. If you need help, look for a personal trainer or physical therapist who has worked with cancer patients.
Make time for things you enjoy
When you’re receiving cancer treatment, it’s easy to push other activities off to the side. But you’re still you. Make a date to go to the movies, out to dinner, or off to the museum, if that’s what you enjoy. Stay involved in your hobbies and your social circle whenever possible.
Having a good social life can reduce the risk of other health problems such as depression and high blood pressure. And art and music therapy are thought to help reduce pain, anxiety, and overall stress.
Get some rest and relaxation
The responsibilities of day-to-day living haven’t gone away, but now you have to devote time to treatment without sacrificing sleep or rest. Make no mistake about it: Down time isn’t a luxury — it’s essential.
Adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Cancer treatment can cause fatigue, so you might need to nap during the day as well. If you can’t nap, be sure to put your feet up and relax when you feel the need — you don’t have to power through everything.
Many people practice meditation to help them ease stress and foster a sense of well-being. Meditation involves being very still and quiet. But activities such as tai chi and yoga, which involve movement, can provide the same benefits.
Follow your doctor’s advice
A good doctor-patient relationship is vital.
Some treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can go on for weeks or months. During that time, it’s important to go to all of your appointments, get follow-up testing as recommended, and take all medications as directed.
Keep in mind that some complementary therapies may interfere with your treatment. Talk to your doctor before starting acupuncture, massage therapy, special diets, or dietary supplements to make sure they truly do complement your treatment.
Always tell your doctor about side effects and new symptoms so they can be quickly addressed. And don’t be shy about expressing your concerns and wishes about your own health.