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Get a Healthy Routine

A diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can change your daily life in a lot of ways. You have to think about things that never crossed your mind before, like cancer treatments and the side effects they may cause. And you may have to live with it for many years to come. That's why it's important to adopt healthy habits that can sustain you over the long term. 

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Pace Yourself

Now isn't the time to take on large projects or push yourself too hard. Your cancer and its treatments may leave you more tired than usual. Take it slow and give yourself time to rest. Break up any big chores you need to get done into smaller tasks. Schedule the most important items for times of day when you know you'll have the most energy, like the morning. And take breaks whenever you feel tired.

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Ask for Help and Accept It

Don't try to do everything yourself. Lean on the people around you. You'll need more help now than you did before you had cancer. Help can come in many forms. A friend or family member can do the grocery shopping or drive your kids to school. Your partner can cook meals and take notes for you during doctor visits. The social worker at your cancer center can connect you with resources to help you pay for treatment.

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Max Out Your Nutrients

Good nutrition is extra important when you have cancer. Eat a well-balanced diet with enough calories and protein to keep up your strength. If you don't have an appetite, eat several small snacks throughout the day instead of three big meals. Include at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. You'll get extra protein from foods like nuts, legumes, and smoothies. Also, drink lots of water so you don't dehydrate.

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Stay Active

A daily dose of physical activity will give you more energy, fight fatigue and stress, and curb side effects of treatment. You don't need a gym or equipment to get your heart pumping for 30 minutes a day. Walking the dog counts as exercise. So does vacuuming the carpet or dancing. Add in resistance exercises such as lifting light weights to keep your muscle strength.

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Manage Treatment Side Effects

The goal of CLL treatment is to slow or stop your cancer. What you might not have planned for are side effects like tiredness, hair loss, nausea, and mouth sores. Before you start any new therapy, ask your doctor what side effects it could cause, and how to manage them. Many will go away once you finish treatment. You can get relief from others with medicine that your doctor can suggest.

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Prevent Infections

White blood cells help your body fight infections. In CLL, many of these cells are abnormal. Plus, chemotherapy damages the bone marrow, where your body makes new white blood cells. To avoid getting sick, wash your hands often, keep away from anyone who's ill, and stay up to date on vaccines. Let your doctor know about infection symptoms like fever, chills, cough, or sore throat.

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Schedule Downtime

Managing CLL can take some effort at a time when you're already more tired than usual. In between doctor visits, your job, and everything else you have to do, schedule some time to just relax. Read a book, listen to music, or watch a movie. Take a nap if you're tired, but keep naps under 30 minutes so they don't interfere with your nighttime sleep.

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Get a Handle on Stress

A few relaxation techniques will help calm your mind if living with CLL has stressed you out. Deep breathing is one of the easiest things you can do. Simply breathe in slowly, hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly let the air out. To meditate, focus on your breath while repeating a word that is meaningful to you, such as "love" or "hope." Or do yoga, which combines gentle movements and poses with breathing techniques.

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Get Enough Shut-Eye

You need sleep to recharge your body and give you energy during treatment. But pain and other cancer symptoms, anxiety, and your medications can keep you awake. To sleep better, get into a routine. Go to bed at the same time each night. Wear comfortable sleepwear. Relax before bedtime with a warm bath or meditation. And ask your doctor about ways to manage pain and other symptoms that disrupt your sleep.

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Talk to Your Partner

Cancer brings some couples closer, but it pulls others apart. The strain of living with CLL can sometimes take a toll on a relationship. You might lose interest in sex because you're too tired, you're in pain, or your cancer makes you feel sad or anxious. Find other ways to stay close. Hold hands or give each other a massage. If you have trouble talking openly with your partner, see a marriage therapist or couples counselor for advice.

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Join a Support Group

No one knows more about what you're going through than other people with CLL. A support group is a place where you can share your thoughts and worries about your cancer, and ask questions. Hospitals and organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society host in-person support groups. You can find virtual support group meetings online.

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Focus on the Positives

Try to make peace with your diagnosis. You might even find some positives, like reconnecting with friends you haven't seen in a while. Follow your doctor's advice, go to all of your medical visits, and do everything you can to stay healthy and feel good while your treatment goes to work on your cancer.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/27/2021 Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 27, 2021


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American Cancer Society: "If You Have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)," "Living as a Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Survivor."

CancerCare: "Relaxation Techniques and Mind/Body Practices: How They Can Help You Cope With Cancer," "The Value of Oncology Social Workers."

Cancer Research UK: "Coping," "How cancer can affect your sexuality and sex life."

CLL Society: "CLL: Infection Kills! How Can We Prevent It?" "Fatigue."

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: "Anxiety and Depression," "Cancer-Related Fatigue," "Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) Support Group," "Healthy Eating," "Infections," "Low Blood Counts," "Managing Side Effects," "Rest, Relax & Renew," "Side Effects," "Sleep Disturbances."

Leukaemia Care: "Living well with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)."

Leukaemia Foundation: "Relationships and sex."

Lymphoma Action: "Exercise and physical activity."

Mayo Clinic: "Low blood cell counts: Side effect of cancer treatment."

MD Anderson Cancer Center: "19 ways to help someone during cancer treatment."

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 27, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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