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Coping with the Mental Stress of CML

Why and how to make mental wellbeing a priority in your treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia.

Medically reviewed in May 2022

Living with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) can be a burden on your mental and emotional health. There is the uncertainty about whether the cancer will progress. The unwelcome side effects that can result from treatment. The cost of treatment. The fatigue and mood changes that often come when blood cell counts are not at healthy levels. The stress that cancer can put on relationships.

For these reasons and many others, it is important to make mental and emotional wellbeing a priority of your treatment plan.

Who you can talk to
CML is not a battle you need to fight alone. There are resources available to help you, including resources that can help you manage the emotional and mental burden of living with CML. These include:

  • Your healthcare providers. In order to provide you with the best care possible, your healthcare team needs to know how you are feeling. This includes how you are feeling physically, as well as how you are feeling emotionally and mentally.
  • Oncology social workers. Oncology social workers are licensed professionals that can provide counseling to people affected by cancer, and also help with the practical aspects of managing cancer.
  • Support groups. The only people who truly understand what it is like to have a disease are other people who have it. Cancer support groups offer the chance to meet and speak with other people who have leukemia. Hospitals and cancer care centers may have information about local support groups. You can also join an online support group.

You can also try keeping a journal. Taking the time to write down your experience can help you better understand what you are feeling and how to talk about it.

What to discuss
If you want to talk, but are not sure where to start, try thinking about the following questions:

  • Do you feel anxious, angry, or depressed?
  • How do you feel about your physical appearance?
  • Do you have concerns or doubts about your diagnosis and test results?
  • Do you have concerns or doubts about your treatment plan?
  • Has CML affected what you can eat and the food you enjoy?
  • Have you lost your sense of taste or smell?
  • Are you having difficulty concentrating?
  • Are you experiencing pain, other symptoms, or side effects?
  • Are you concerned about the cost of treatment?
  • Are you concerned about your fertility?
  • How often do you feel stressed?
  • What is the worst part of having CML?
  • What does having CML prevent you from doing?
  • Has the diagnosis affected your relationships with friends and loved ones?

Remember that there is no wrong way to feel, and that it’s okay if you can’t put into words exactly how you feel and why.

Sources:
Kathryn E. Flynn and Ehab Atallah. “Quality of Life and Long-Term Therapy in Patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.” Current Hematologic Malignancy Reports, 2016. Vol. 11, No. 2.
Cancer.Net. "Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid - CML: Coping with Treatment."
Phoebe Star. "Psychological Distress and Financial Burden Impact Adherence to CML Treatment." American Health & Drug Benefits. February 2015, Vol. 8.
Cancer.Net. "Spotlight On: Oncology Social Workers – Part I, a Q&A."
University of California San Francisco. "Oncology Social Work."
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "Support Groups."
CancerCare. "Blood Cancers Patient Support Group."
CML Advocates Network. "CML Patient Organizations Worldwide."
Cancer.Net. "The Power of Writing."
Abramson Cancer Center. "Living With Chronic Myeloid Leukemia."

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