Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare form of blood cancer that affects around 1,000 to 1,500 people in the United States every year. While there is no cure, a variety of treatments are available to help manage your symptoms and prevent complications. Building healthy lifestyle habits can also help you feel better and cultivate a sense of empowerment over your health.
Here’s a guide to 10 of the changes you can make for a healthy life if you have WM.
Follow-up care is an important part of evaluating the efficacy of your treatments and managing your symptoms. Do your best to keep up with all follow-up appointments.
Consulting with your doctor regularly gives you a chance to address any new symptoms, and ask any questions that may come up. Your doctor might also order blood tests and imaging studies, like CT scans, to monitor the progression of your disease.
The Institute of Medicine recommends working with your doctor to develop a survivorship care plan. It should contain details about your treatment, potential side effects from your treatment, and a schedule of follow-up care, along with ways to continue to improve your health.
Having all necessary information about your cancer and what to expect for the future of your health in one place can help you stay organized and offer additional peace of mind.
Many people with cancer build close relationships with their healthcare team and rely on them as a source of security throughout their treatment. You may find yourself missing their support once your treatment ends and your appointments become less frequent.
Joining an online or in-person support group specifically for cancer survivors can help fill the gap and make you feel supported by people who’ve had a similar experience with their health. Here are a few organizations that run support groups for people with WM:
Counseling can offer relief from the emotional burden that accompanies rare diseases, like WM. A mental health professional can provide one-on-one attention and help you develop coping skills. Counseling can also help you manage depression, anxiety, and other psychological concerns that may come up after your diagnosis or treatment.
One of the most common symptoms people with cancer experience is fatigue. It’s different from the tiredness you may feel from everyday stress. It usually lasts longer and isn’t cured by getting enough sleep. Cancer-related fatigue can also be connected with pain, anxiety, medications, nutritional deficiencies, and inactivity.
Work to understand your fatigue by tracking when you feel energized and when you feel exhausted. Use that log to help you expend your energy when it makes the most sense.
If you find you’re least tired in the afternoons, consider scheduling your exercise, errands, and appointments for that time of day. Don’t be shy about asking for help from others, especially when you’re feeling low energy.
It’s completely normal to feel fatigued from WM. Being realistic about your energy levels can provide a sense of empowerment and help you feel more encouraged throughout the week. At times when you’re not feeling up to a task, try not to be too hard on yourself.
After surviving WM, you may be at an increased risk of getting a second cancer, such as melanoma, acute myeloid leukemia, or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Avoiding the use of tobacco products and second-hand smoke can help reduce your risk of getting many types of cancers. Quitting smoking is also part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Just like smoking, alcohol also
During and after cancer treatments, you may feel a lot of uncertainty about the future of your health. The worrying is sometimes most intense in the first 12 months after your treatment. Exercising regularly can help you feel better — physically and emotionally. Not only does exercise help reduce stress, it can also make you feel more in control over your health.
Work with your doctor to figure out the most appropriate types of exercise for you. They may recommend low-intensity activities, like slow walks and stretching, especially if you were relatively sedentary prior to your treatment.
While there are no special eating plans for people with WM, a vitamin- and nutrient-rich diet can help keep you heathy during and after your treatment.
Your meals should have plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also limit how much red meat and fatty foods you consume. Ask your doctor about any specific dietary changes you should make.
The American Cancer Society’s Eat Healthy is a robust resource of nutrition advice for cancer survivors. The shopping list and quick recipes are a great place to get started in eating healthier after your treatment.
Research has shown that spending time in nature can offer mental health benefits, like stress relief. Simply taking a short walk in a park, admiring your garden, watching birds in your backyard, or sitting near a lake may be restorative, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Taking care of yourself is an important component of feeling your best when you have WM. Making lifestyle changes, like eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly, can help keep your body healthy and make you feel more in control of your health.
While these tips provide overall guidelines for better health, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine which specific changes are right for you.