September is Blood Cancer Awareness month and time to focus on how some myeloma patients are developing Muscles for Myeloma. Staying fit is critical for your best myeloma outcomes. Every patient will be different in what they can do, so talk with your doctor, listen to your body and stay as active as you possible can based on your unique situation.
By Paula Waller
As myeloma patients, we not only deal with managing our disease; we are also faced with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For most of us, the phrase “healthy lifestyle” means nutrition and exercise, and both are vitally important. However, there is more to a healthy lifestyle—stress management, good sleep habits, and a hopeful outlook are also essential.
When I was diagnosed and about to start treatment, I asked my doctor what I could do to maximize the effects of therapy. I was surprised when he replied, “Manage your stress.” As a high-achieving perfectionist, this was a challenge! One of the first changes I made was to adopt the idea that “Good enough really is good enough.” This applied to my professional life as well as my family life. While I continued to strive for excellence with my work, I became more flexible and stopped agonizing over self-imposed, unrealistic deadlines. I also learned to delegate. As this philosophy became part of our home life, I found that our family continued to be as happy and healthy as before.
Managing stress means it’s okay to work on a jigsaw puzzle, curl up with a good book, or watch a movie, even when other tasks call for our attention. In fact, it’s important to take time for ourselves on a daily basis and engage in relaxing activities, interesting diversions, and creative pursuits. And sometimes, we need to just give ourselves time to sit back and breathe. Other tips I’ve learned about managing stress include disconnecting from electronic devices on a regular basis, paring down my to-do list, and refusing to over-commit.
Good sleep habits are equally important. Chronic sleep loss weakens the immune system, which is especially concerning for myeloma patients. Poor sleep habits can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, and memory problems. I often fell short of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, not realizing how it was affecting my health. As I began to adopt better sleep habits, I found that I was more energetic, more focused, and better able to handle stress. Determined to give more priority to sleep, I began by setting a more consistent sleep schedule and limiting caffeine. Calming activities, such as reading or taking a warm bath, help prepare my body for sleep. It also helps to have a darkened bedroom, and, for me, cozy socks are a must!
Lastly, a hopeful, optimistic perspective contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Numerous studies have shown that optimism has health benefits, including lower levels of inflammation and improved immune function. I find optimism through seeking and embracing the everyday blessings of life. There is always something to be thankful for! I have also found that connecting with and serving others brings hope, healing, and a sense of purpose.
A healthy lifestyle involves making good choices in many areas, including stress management, sleep habits, and our outlook on life. Our choices in these areas can impact the effectiveness of our myeloma therapies and have lifelong effects on our overall well-being.
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about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of Myeloma Crowd by HealthTree and the HealthTree Foundation.