A diagnosis of multiple myeloma is frightening to most Americans. This plasma cell cancer strikes at any age but is most common in the elderly. Developing a strategy for your healthcare will empower you and allow you to find the most appropriate care. While myeloma is usually considered incurable, treatment allows many to enjoy a long life.
Learn All You Can
When first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it is helpful to learn all you can about this cancer. Knowing the common effects can help you learn what to expect and how to care for yourself. You should also learn about the various treatment options available. Credible medical resources such as the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) can answer questions about your diagnosis. The IMF has a hotline available at (800) 452-CURE.
Find a Good Doctor
Find a doctor who specializes in multiple myeloma. Ideally, he will be part of a treatment team consisting of hematologic oncologists (blood cancer specialists), radiation oncologists, bone marrow transplant specialists and pain management experts. Discuss your treatment expectations and make sure the doctor is a good fit for you. His office should explain to you how to contact them during off-hours and what to do when medical issues arise.
Choose Appropriate Treatment
Often with early myeloma, the best approach is to monitor your health without initiating treatment. While this may seem scary, it actually keeps your body prepared to better deal with medication side effects later. Your physician will discuss your treatment options with you at each stage of your illness. If you are a potential candidate for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you will have different treatment options than if you are not a candidate. If you are interested in a transplant and your physician determines you are not a candidate at her facility, check with the transplant team at one or more other facilities as they each have their own guidelines. You may also wish to consider enrolling in one of the hundreds of clinical trials for multiple myeloma. The National Institutes of Health maintains a list of current clinical trials.
Take Care of Yourself
Mayo Clinic recommends that you keep up a regular exercise routine unless your physician has instructed you otherwise. This helps to keep your bones strong and may lessen the impact of the disease on your bones. Recognize that you are at increased risk of fractures and avoid high-impact and other risky exercises. Drink plenty of fluids unless you have been instructed otherwise; this will help your kidneys flush out harmful proteins. Eat a healthy diet and get 8 hours of sleep each night. If stress is a problem, consider talking with a counselor or trusted friend. Relaxation therapy or meditation may also be beneficial. Maintain a positive outlook but avoid berating yourself if you feel down occasionally.
Avoid situations where you are likely to become infected, such as indoor crowds in the winter or visits to people who are contagious. Practice meticulous skin care to avoid developing a skin infection. Seek prompt treatment for any infection you develop.
About this Author
Lucy Boyd is a registered nurse who graduated summa cum laude from the University of the State of New York – Regents College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2000. A professional writer since 2007, Boyd is the author of two medical books. Trade magazines such as “PI Magazine” call on her to create feature articles explaining psychiatric and medical issues.