Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia (WM) is a rare form of blood cancer. In the United States, around 1,000 to 1,500 people receive a WM diagnosis each year.

While there is no cure, a variety of treatments can help you manage symptoms and prevent complications. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits can also help you feel better and gain a sense of empowerment over your health.

Here’s a guide to 10 of the habits you can adopt for a healthy life if you have WM.

1. Eat a nutrient-dense, balanced diet

While there are no special eating plans for people with WM, a vitamin- and nutrient-rich diet can help keep you healthy during and after your treatment.

Your meals should have a good balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains. You should also limit how much red meat and fatty foods you consume.

Talk with your doctor about any specific dietary changes you should make. They may also want you to speak with a registered dietitian for extra nutrition support, if possible.

The American Cancer Society’s (ACS’s) Eat Healthy webpage 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 treatment.

2. Acknowledge fatigue

One of the most common symptoms people with cancer experience is fatigue. This is different from the tiredness you may feel from everyday stress. It usually lasts longer and doesn’t improve simply by getting enough sleep.

Here are some tips for understanding and living with fatigue:

  • Cancer-related fatigue can relate to pain, anxiety, medications, nutritional deficiencies, and inactivity. Speak with your doctor to see if medication, pain management, or meal planning changes could help.
  • Work to understand your fatigue by tracking when you feel energized and when you feel exhausted. Use that log to help you use your energy when it makes the most sense. If you find you’re less tired in the afternoons, for example, 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 expected that you’ll 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.

3. Stay away from tobacco

After surviving WM, you may be at an increased risk of getting a second cancer type, 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. Not smoking is also part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Speak with your doctor about recommended methods for quitting smoking if you currently smoke.

4. Limit alcohol use

Just like smoking, alcohol also increases your risk of some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So it’s especially important to limit alcohol use if you have WM.

The ACS recommends that people assigned female at birth limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day and people assigned male at birth stick to a maximum of two drinks per day.

5. Increase physical activity, if you can

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 year after treatment.

Adding joyful movement to your day can help you feel better — physically and emotionally. Not only does regular physical activity help reduce stress, it can also make you feel more in charge of your health.

Work with your healthcare team to figure out the most appropriate types of activity for you. They may recommend low intensity activities, like slow walks and stretching, especially if you were relatively sedentary prior to your treatment.

Try to find achievable activities that you enjoy to help you adhere to a plan.

6. Keep up with your doctor’s appointments

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, talk about any emotional support needs, 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 condition.

7. Create a survivorship care plan

It’s recommended to work with your doctor to develop a survivorship care plan. It should contain:

  • details about your treatment
  • potential side effects from your treatment
  • a schedule of follow-up care
  • ways to continue to improve your health

Having all of the 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.

8. Join a support group

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:

9. Consider counseling

Counseling can offer relief from the emotional toll that comes along with having a rare disease 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.

10. Restore yourself in nature

Research from 2021 and a study from 2022 suggest 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.