Health

Tips for Sticking With Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Going through treatment for multiple myeloma is no walk in the park. For one thing, it can feel like a never-ending trek — and, in fact, that’s often the case. “Managing multiple myeloma can be a lifelong commitment,” says Philip Imus, MD, an assistant professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Side effects can also derail adherence to multiple myeloma treatment, as can a bad experience with a doctor, hospital, or other aspect of overall healthcare. Then, there’s the potential expense, especially for someone who has subpar health insurance — or none at all. “The financial ramifications for a person in cancer treatment can be massive,” says Ali Bukhari, MD, a hematologist/oncologist with Maryland Oncology Hematology in Annapolis, Maryland.

And, it can be tempting to stop therapy for multiple myeloma because it’s working well. If you finish one phase of treatment and are placed on a maintenance regimen, you may wonder if it’s necessary, especially if you’re feeling healthy. But, you may still have cancer cells in your body that could multiply to the point where they’re a problem. Waiting to go back into treatment until the cancer returns may be risky, Dr. Bukhari says.

All that said, research confirms the obvious: People who complete their treatment for multiple myeloma have a higher likelihood of staying healthy without a recurrence than those who end treatment early.

There’s also evidence that staying on maintenance therapy may extend the length of time a person is in remission (or even their longevity). “Patients who are able to maintain their treatment plan fare better overall,” Bukhari says. So, if you’re in the midst of treatment for multiple myeloma but feel tempted to throw in the towel for any reason, take a breath. Often, what feels like an insurmountable problem can be conquered easily with simple lifestyle tweaks, a new cancer care team, or another surprisingly straightforward solution.

1. Stay Healthy

It sounds obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that the better care you take of your body while undergoing myeloma treatment, the better able you’ll be to weather side effects or other issues it may bring about, according to Bukhari.

What it means is simple, starting with the basics:

  • Eat a varied diet composed of nutritious foods.
  • Stay active — meaning find physical activities you enjoy (so you stick with it).
  • Scale way back on alcohol or cut it out completely if you suspect you drink more than you should.
  • Quit smoking and any other habits that may interfere with your overall health and well-being.

2. Shore Up Your Support System

Don’t hesitate to lean on loved ones when you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Even when everything is going well, it’s important to make spending time with friends and family a priority. Do things together that bring you joy.

Equally important is to seek out others who are going through myeloma treatment. It’s immensely helpful to be able to share concerns with people who are in the trenches along with you and to know you’re not alone if you’re struggling with any aspect of your cancer care.

3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open With Your Doctor

If you’re having side effects that you find so intolerable that you want to quit treatment, check in with your doctor. There may be other options. “Sometimes, a treatment has such bad side effects that people can’t tolerate them and want to stop treatment,” says David Gottlieb, MD, a medical oncologist at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. “But, with the goal of managing side effects, they may be switched to a different medication. It is always a balance.”

4. Ask About Reducing Your Dose

Sometimes, a treatment change doesn’t need to be as major as switching medications. If you’re having unbearable side effects, ask your doctor if lowering the amount of medication you take is an option. Often, “We can adjust the dose,” Bukhari says. “I would rather have a person on an adjusted dose of medication than [have them stop] treatment altogether.”

5. Get a Second Opinion

If your current doctor can’t see a way to alter your treatment plan so it’s easier to adhere to, don’t hesitate to speak to another one. Getting a second opinion can be helpful, and even if a second provider comes to the same conclusion as the first, you’ll feel confident that you’ve explored the options, which may be enough to shore up your resolve to stick with your treatment. Ultimately, “You should feel comfortable with whoever is treating you,” says Dr. Gottlieb.

6. Remember That Balance Is Key

If your quality of life is suffering to the point that you feel treatment isn’t worth it, take a step back and try to put things in perspective. Are you so fatigued that you truly can’t function, or are you able to go to work and spend time with friends when you aren’t feeling tired? Sometimes what feels like an insurmountable challenge isn’t so daunting when you realize it’s not really stopping you — and you can carry on living your best life while also continuing the treatment you need to prevent multiple myeloma from recurring.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button