May is mental health awareness month. Mental health is often not discussed openly due to negative stereotypes. Some struggle with mental health at an early age. Others may experience mental and emotional health and wellness their entire lives..…until they experience a traumatic health event such as a cancer diagnosis.
Diagnosis and treatment of myeloma can trigger challenges that didn’t exist before such as anxiety, and depression. These may be exacerbated by myeloma medication (we all know the raging impact of Dexamethasone) or treatment (stem cell transplant, failure of treatment, extreme side effects of treatment, etc.).
These challenges are REAL and need to be recognized and treated. They are not a sign of weakness. They can often be difficult to understand and accept, especially if you had previously been healthy (both physically and mentally) and not had to deal with these challenges before myeloma.
If you are experiencing feelings of depression
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
It is important to share these difficulties with your myeloma care team (myeloma specialist, nurse practitioner, nurse or social worker). Do not be afraid to speak up. Many of these symptoms are also side effects of treatment and medication, which can make it difficult to manage on your own. Discussing these concerns and their disruption in your daily life with your care team can help determine if additional supports are needed. If so, they can refer you to a specialist who can provide essential treatment, resources and support. You do not have to do it alone.
The current pandemic and it's impact on our lives is placing additional mental and emotional stress. Recently, Mayo Clinic physicians reminded us that as myeloma patients, caregivers, and family members cope with the pressures of the pandemic, it is “critical” that they focus on their own mental health. Should there be indications of overwhelming stress, the authors strongly advised following the advice of the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Once you have addressed these needs with a professional, another source of comfort and relief may be talking to others who can relate and understand. The Myeloma Coach program allows you to find that personal support and connection. All of our Coaches have experienced myeloma themselves or cared for a loved one with myeloma. They have experienced firsthand the overwhelming feelings at diagnosis, the fear of beginning a new treatment anticipating possible side effects, going through the stem cell transplant process, and making decisions about maintenance treatment or what to do when facing relapse. They have experienced the emotional roller coaster that accompanies life with myeloma including the extreme highs and terrifying lows.
Click here to find a Myeloma Coach, or to become a Coach to share your experience and insight with others.
about the author
Rozalynn Hite is the Myeloma Coach Director and wife of myeloma patient Richard Hite. Rozalynn is an occupational therapist and mother of three beautiful children.