Healthy Living

Living with Lymphoma Day by Day

A majority of individuals diagnosed with lymphoma find that they have to make a great deal of adjustments to their lives. There are several physical, emotional, social, and everyday obstacles from diagnosis to remission.

Living with lymphoma can be different for every individual, which is why it is important to understand the day to day practicalities to coping with this type of cancer as normally as possible.

Physical well-being

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is good for your overall health. It can help you to feel better both physically and mentally and it can also help with your recovery after treatment. While there are no specific foods that can cure lymphoma, there are specific foods that can give your body the nutrients that it needs in order to grow stronger, healthier, and function properly. Since you may have to undergo higher doses of chemotherapy, a healthy diet can help protect you from getting an infection and experiencing unwanted complications.

A common side effect of chemotherapy is reduced appetite or feeling of fullness. If you are finding it difficult to eat, consider some of the following tips:

  • Drink liquids at least half an hour before your meals in order to avoid filling up while you eat.
  • Eat when you are hungry, as opposed to set meal times.
  • Eat high-energy foods, such as eggs and cheese, to help sustain you throughout the day.
  • Talk with your medical team or dietician about your nutritional well-being and what is right for you.

If you have lost a lot of weight and you are in need of a boost in your energy levels:

  • Consider full-fat meal options.
  • Add ingredients such as cheese or sauces to pasta.
  • Add sugar to syrup to beverages or desserts.
  • Consult with your dietitian about your specific nutritional needs.

If you are feeling nauseous as a side effect from the chemotherapy sessions:

  • Take anti-sickness medications.
  • Eat dry and plain foods.
  • Add ginger to your diet.

If you are experiencing diarrhea as a side effect from the chemotherapy sessions:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Ask your doctor to prescribe you some type of medication.
  • Be aware of your symptoms and what you consume, but eat more portions throughout the day.

If you are experiencing constipation as a side effect from the chemotherapy sessions:

  • Add more fiber to your diet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Perform gentle exercises.
  • Talk with your doctor about laxatives appropriate for your individual situation.

Importance of exercise

Exercise can also help enhance your physical and mental well-being. It can get you to feel more energized, increase your muscle and bone strength, reduce your risk of infections, relieve your stress, and more. How much you should exercise on a daily or weekly basis depends on whether you are currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma, as well as what your overall health looks like. Some individuals find that exercising a few times per week is enough, while others like to set goals and challenge themselves more and more on a daily basis. Examples of a few useful therapies include acupuncture, massage, art therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, and more. Speak to your doctor about what type of exercise and level of intensity is right for you.

Emotional well-being

Living with lymphoma, it is not uncommon to go through a wide range of emotions right after receiving your diagnosis, during your treatment, as well as well after your treatment is over. Your relationships may be affected to some extent as well. Therefore, the key to living with lymphoma before, during, and after treatment is to have your doctor and medical team address your concerns so that you can process your thoughts and reduce your anxiety and stress levels.

Before treatment

If you are anxious about your test results, keep in mind that during this time, your doctor and medical team are collecting important information pertaining to your health. The better informed they are, the better care you can receive. However, if you start experiencing any abnormal symptoms while you wait, talk with your doctor right away.

During treatment

Your personalized treatment plan depends on several factors, including the type of lymphoma that you are diagnosed with and your overall health. You may have difficulty coping both emotionally and physically during treatment and this can cause changes in your lifestyle habits (work, diet, exercise) and relationships. Response to treatment and the occurrence of side effects is never predictable. The most important thing that you can do is to make adjustments to lighten your load and consider what you are able to control. For instance, if you are self-employed, consider how you will manage your workload and finances. Moreover, ask your medical team for more information and advice on how to cope.

After treatment

Finishing with treatment, you may feel both stressed and relieved. During this time, it is quite common to feel isolated. You may be feeling pressured by friends and family to get back to your normal life. However, going through such an overwhelming experience, you may not feel like your old self. For this reason, process your emotions, give yourself some time to adjust to your life now and talk openly with those closest to you about how you are feeling. Moreover, it is only natural to worry that your cancer may come back, so consider undergoing regular follow-up appointments. Follow-up care can help keep your lymphoma in check for as long as possible.

Living with lymphoma can be both challenging and overwhelming. Each individual’s situation is different, but some feelings, such as fear, guilt, anger, depression, and isolation, are considered rather universal. While there is no proven or easy way to help you prepare for the emotions that you might experience, there are ways in which you can live well with lymphoma, both physically and mentally, on a day to day basis. Keep in mind that there are different ways of coping. Some individuals turn to the comfort of a spouse, friend or family member, while others withdraw from society altogether and spend time alone. Some individuals turn to relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness, while others turn to a professional counselor.

This being said, there is no right or wrong way to cope. What might work for someone else may not necessarily work for you. Individuals around you may urge you stay positive and keep on fighting, but there may be times when you are not feeling positive or willing to fight. So, give yourself some time to adjust to your diagnosis. Do what you feel is right for you and find effective coping strategies that work for you.