Coping with leukemia’s different symptoms can be extremely challenging, but it doesn’t have to feel impossible. With the right resources and guidance, you can approach this situation with a sense of dignity and self-assuredness. Remember, you can’t control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react to these things. Whether you’re dealing with leukemia’s different symptoms personally or you’re caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with this disease, there are several steps you can take to make this process easier.
Understanding the Different Types of Leukemia
The process of coping with leukemia’s different symptoms depends mainly on the specific type that you have been diagnosed with. There are a few different types of leukemia, and each is distinct in its own way:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia: Otherwise known simply as “ALL,” this type of leukemia progresses very rapidly. Leukemia cells are transported to many organs and tissues via the bloodstream. This results in a wide range of possible symptoms.
- Acute myeloid leukemia: Otherwise known simply as “AML,” this type of leukemia primarily affects the blood and bone marrow. It is an extremely fast-growing form of cancer.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Also known simply as “CLL,” this type of leukemia is relatively slow-growing. It begins in the bone marrow before extending into the bloodstream. With the growth of numerous lymphocytes, it becomes difficult for the body to fight off infections.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia: Otherwise known as “CML,” this type of leukemia is similar to CLL in that it starts in the bone marrow before spreading to the bloodstream. It can slowly spread to various parts of the body over time.
- Hairy cell leukemia: Also known as “HCL,” this is a rare type of CLL that progresses quite slowly. It is caused by the overproduction of B cells in the bone marrow. This, in turn, results in fewer healthy white blood cells.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes: Also known as MDS, these syndromes involve the underproduction of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets in the bone marrow. In some instances, there might be an underproduction of all three. If blood or bone marrow blasts reach a level of 20% or more, MDS is reclassified as AML.
The Symptoms of Leukemia and How To Cope With Each of Them
There is a wide range of different possible symptoms associated with leukemia. Each one of leukemia’s different symptoms might require a different coping strategy, and it’s essential to understand how to handle each one:
- Leukemia cutis: Leukemia cutis occurs when leukemia cells infiltrate the skin. Usually, this results in small papules on the surface of the skin. These papules typically aren’t painful, although they can be red or purple. Papules most commonly occur on the legs. Unfortunately, Leukemia cutis is associated with a lower survival rate. To cope with this symptom, remind yourself that Leukemia cutis does not mean that your condition is hopeless. The survival rate is only about 20% lower for those with papules. Focus on the treatment of the underlying issue that caused the papules – leukemia itself.
- Pain management: Pain can either occur due to the disease itself or as a result of treatment. Pain management is critical when dealing with leukemia, as it can destroy your spirits. There is also evidence to suggest that chronic pain can wear down the immune system and impair the body’s healing abilities. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when it comes to pain management. Medication may be necessary, and complementary approaches can also be beneficial.
- Fever and Chills: Many individuals experience fevers and chills when going through leukemia. Take it easy! Make sure to get plenty of rest and do everything you can to keep your temperature down. Give your body time to heal and ensure that your immune system is functioning at its highest capacity.
- Weight Loss: Weight loss can be one of the most worrying symptoms of Leukemia. Do everything you can to maintain a strong appetite. There are medications that you can take to encourage your appetite. Make sure to eat a healthy diet as you’re battling this disease, as this can prove to be a significant asset.
- Frequent Infections: As a leukemia patient, you should be aware that you are at a higher risk for infections. In addition, your infections may be much more severe compared to an average person. Be aware of this risk and make sure to promote proper hygiene throughout the day. It might not be a good idea to interact with large amounts of people or spend too much time in close quarters with strangers.
- Chemotherapy Side Effects: There are also several additional side effects that you might be dealing with if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy. These include dehydration, diarrhea. Stay hydrated throughout this period! A good solution is to add protein milkshakes to your diet – but consult with your doctor first.
Dealing with Emotions
While we’ve already mentioned a few of the physical symptoms of leukemia, a massive aspect of this struggle has emotional and mental issues. Fighting leukemia can be incredibly stressful, and it can also be quite scary.
- Shock: After being diagnosed with leukemia, you might find yourself in a state of shock. This is quite common, and sometimes it takes time to fully come to grips with your diagnosis. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel confused or unsure of what to do. Allow your mind to process this information fully.
- Denial: You might also find yourself in a state of denial after your diagnosis. This is also quite normal. Again, sometimes it just takes time to fully adjust to your new circumstances. With that said, addressing denial is very important in the early stages. If you allow your denial to take control, you could miss out on essential treatments that might even save your life.
- Guilt: As illogical as it might sound, many people blame themselves for their own leukemia diagnosis. It’s essential to sit down and tell yourself that this isn’t your fault. This is something that was completely out of control, and you are not to blame.
Don’t just focus on the negative emotions as you look forward when coping with leukemia’s different symptoms. If you search your mind, you’ll find plenty of positive emotions that are waiting to be let out. Allow yourself to feel a sense of hope as you look forward to the future. Take solace in any philosophical or spiritual beliefs you might have. Remain optimistic, and you will approach this situation in the most effective way possible.
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