Coping with UncertaintyEmotional wellnessOctober 2019By: Myeloma Explained Staff
If you have multiple myeloma, and your disease is in remission, worrying about relapse may seem unavoidable. Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about a recurrence are normal and perfectly understandable. But you can take positive steps to minimize the impact of these feelings on your daily life.
Here are a few suggestions for dealing with the worries you might feel while you are in remission:
Stay in close touch with your care team.
Think of your health care team as partners in managing uncertainty. After receiving treatments, it’s important to continue to follow the management and monitoring plan you’ve aligned on with your care team and report any new symptoms or changes you feel in your body. Don’t be shy! If you sense anything unusual, ask if it is possibly related to multiple myeloma or if it could have another cause.
Recognize and acknowledge negative emotions.
Acknowledging the unknowns of cancer isn’t easy. It’s not unusual for people to try to hide from or ignore negative feelings, including fear and anxiety. That strategy might work temporarily. But those feelings usually well up, and when they do, it’s better to accept that you’re experiencing them and do your best to manage them.
Consider connecting with other people living with multiple myeloma.
There is no need to take this journey alone. Others with this disease may be working through the same physical and emotional challenges that you’re facing, including anxiety about relapses. You might find it comforting and helpful to hear their stories, or share your own, whether it be through a local support group, online patient community, or social media group. Research and advocacy organizations like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), International Myeloma Foundation (IMF), and Myeloma Crowd can help you connect with others or identify patient support groups near you and online.
It’s common to feel fatigue from multiple myeloma. In addition to getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, low-intensity physical activity may also be recommended by your care team. Mild exercise, including brisk walking, yoga, and stationary biking, will not only strengthen your muscles and increase your energy levels; it could also boost your mood, reduce stress and improve your ability to handle uncertainty about the future. Be sure to talk to your health care team before changing your exercise routine.
Try to reduce stress.
If you can find proactive ways to manage the stress caused by fears of recurrence, it could help your body as well as your mind. While exercise is one path to stress reduction, there are many others—from meditation to music to warm baths—and you might find it beneficial to try more than one.
You may feel that you’re not in control of many things, but you can control what’s on your plate. Eating well might help maintain or improve your strength and energy levels, which can help you better cope with stress and anxiety. Be sure to talk to your health care team before changing your diet.
Talk to a mental health professional if you’re overwhelmed.
Some people with multiple myeloma can be so distressed about the future that they find it hard to cope with daily life. If that sounds like you, a trained mental health counselor or other health care professional might be extremely helpful. Health care providers who treat people with cancer can often refer patients to qualified psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask for a referral.
Develop an ongoing management plan for yourself and your family.
It may help you manage the feelings of uncertainty that can come along with having multiple myeloma if you have a plan. What are your answers to the following prompts?
- To take care of my emotional well-being, I will…
- To connect with others if I feel I need to, I will…
- To stay active, I will…
- To reduce stress, I will…
- To eat right, I will…
If you’re interested in more information that can help you develop a personal strategy for managing your multiple myeloma, check out the Myeloma MVP guide.
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