It is important for people living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) to take care of their mental and physical health. Read on for tips on how to cope.
CLL is a type of cancer that affects blood cells. It causes the bone marrow to produce excess abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
The accumulation of abnormal cells in the bone marrow and blood crowds out healthy cells, increasing a person’s susceptibility to infection. Abnormal cells can spread to lymph nodes and organs, including the liver and spleen.
Though CLL usually progresses slowly, in some people, it may progress quickly. Initially, people with slow-growing CLL have no symptoms. Symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, and easy bleeding slowly crop up and worsen over months or years.
Receiving a CLL diagnosis can be overwhelming. It involves learning about the disease and considering various treatment options. Someone with a new CLL diagnosis also needs to learn how to live with the condition.
Read on to learn more about living with CLL. This article will also cover how to find support and make treatment decisions.
By maintaining and incorporating new healthy habits, a person with a diagnosis of CLL can support their physical and mental well-being.
- improved cognitive function
- lower anxiety levels
- reduced stress
- improved heart health
- reduced fatigue
- increased muscle strength
A person with CLL may wish to speak with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
It is also important that people with a diagnosis of CLL listen to their bodies when engaging in exercise. Energy levels may fluctuate, and treatment can leave a person feeling more lethargic than usual.
Those new to physical activity can start with small bouts of low intensity activities, such as walking, gardening, or aqua aerobics, 3 days per week.
Including exercises to improve balance, strength, and coordination may also be beneficial. Over time, as a person gains fitness, they can increase the intensity and duration of their workouts.
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Maintaining a sleep schedule and creating a bedtime routine may make getting to sleep easier. A before-bed routine might involve:
- drinking a soothing hot beverage
- performing gentle stretches
- taking a warm shower or bath
Allowing enough time for rest, relaxation, and downtime is also crucial when dealing with a condition that causes fatigue.
A healthy diet helps encourage healing, manage treatment side effects, and replace damaged tissues and blood cells. Hydration is also important since dehydration can worsen fatigue.
Following a nutritious diet is essential for strengthening immunity and preventing other health issues.
A nutritious diet might include whole, varied foods, such as:
- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- lean meat and poultry
- fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines
- fat-free or low fat dairy
- olive oil
- green tea
- dark chocolate
It may be a good idea to limit the following:
- refined grains
- processed foods
- trans fats
- saturated fats
Getting a diagnosis of CLL can be overwhelming. Some people find it helpful to reach out to friends and family members for support as they navigate their new diagnosis.
Organizations such as the CLL Society exist to help newly diagnosed people cope with their condition. For example, the CLL Society offers monthly virtual support groups for individuals with CLL and caregivers.
The organization also makes it easy for people with CLL to find in-person support groups. And it offers other information, such as:
- educational resources
- financial resources
- caregiver resources
People with CLL who are also living with mental health conditions such as depression may find it helpful to speak with a mental health professional.
People with CLL can discuss possible treatment options with a healthcare professional. Treatment options will depend on a person’s overall health, their symptoms, and the stage of their CLL.
Those with slow-growing CLL may not need to start treatment right away, and doctors may recommend a watch-and-wait approach. This approach still involves routine checkups and blood work to monitor the person’s condition.
Other questions a person might ask a doctor include:
- What are the side effects of the different treatment options?
- What are the possible outcomes of these treatment options?
- Are there any clinical trials available?
People may also find it helpful to bring along a support person to appointments who can listen, take notes, and advocate on their behalf.
CLL is a common type of leukemia affecting the blood and bone marrow. Most of the time, CLL progresses slowly and does not cause symptoms right away.
After receiving a CLL diagnosis, a person can discuss potential treatment options with a healthcare professional. In some cases, doctors may recommend a watch-and-wait approach.
As CLL can be a slow-progressing disease, it is possible to live for several years with mild symptoms or none at all. During this time, a person must learn how to cope with their diagnosis. They may find it helpful to reach out to friends, family members, or professionals for support.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help improve a person’s quality of life. Getting adequate rest, following a nutritious diet, and exercising regularly can help manage CLL symptoms and treatment side effects.