Self-Care Tips When You Have Myelofibrosis

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on December 06, 2021

Myelofibrosis (a form of blood cancer) can be a long-term condition, but taking good care of yourself can help you enjoy a happier, healthier life.  

Make time for things you enjoy. This can be anything from reading to taking a walk to relaxing in a warm bath.

De-stress. Prayer or meditation might help with this. And deep breathing or relaxation techniques can also make a difference.

Let people help. Your friends might be happy to give you a hand. When they ask what they can do, think about what you need and let them support you. Maybe you could use a little help with housework, or you might need a ride to a medical appointment.

Get strength from others.  As a member of a support group, you can learn how other people deal with the same issues that affect you. You also can connect with people through telephone counseling lines or online groups.

Talk with someone if you need to. Emotional ups and downs are normal, but if you get the blues and can’t shake them off in a couple of weeks, check with your medical team -- counseling might help. Depression is an illness, and your all-around health gets a lift when you treat it.

Eat Right

A balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs, gives you energy, and helps keep your weight in line. Your menu should include:

  • Lots of different fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Proteins like chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, low-fat dairy, and soy
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and nuts

Here’s a handy rule of thumb: About two-thirds of your plate should be fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or beans. Meanwhile, dial way down on:

  • Red meat
  • Salt
  • Processed meats
  • Saturated fats and trans fats
  • Sugary drinks and sweets with added sugar

Whatever you eat, watch the sizes of your servings. Check the labels on packages, because they can guide you to the right amounts.

One more idea: You don't have to eat the traditional three meals a day. You might do better with smaller meals spaced out from morning to night. Give it a try and see what works for you.

Get on Your Feet

Being active is good for you in a lot of ways. Exercise can:

  • Give you more energy
  • Brighten your mood
  • Help control your weight
  • Keep you more mobile over the years
  • Help keep diseases away

You can get the benefits from things like:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Stretching or tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Riding your bicycle

If you haven’t done much exercise up to now, ease into it. Your medical team can help you decide how to start. Your goal is to build up to one of these:

  • About 150 minutes a week (roughly 20 minutes a day) of moderate exercise, like walking, swimming, or yoga.
  • About 75 minutes a week of more vigorous exercise, like jogging, dancing, swimming, or riding your bike.

It's also a good idea to work in a little strength training to tone your muscles. Here’s an example: Stand with your feet about as far apart as the width of your shoulders, then lift yourself up on the balls of your feet. If you repeat that, it helps your calf muscles.

If you have trouble moving around, a physical therapist can show you exercises that suit you.

Develop Good Habits

Get into a routine for sleeping. Regular rest can help with the fatigue that can happen with myelofibrosis. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day. Keep your bedroom quiet and at a comfy temperature. Don’t drink coffee, tea, or alcohol close to bedtime. Don’t use your computer before bedtime, either.

Avoid tobacco. That means all kinds, from cigarettes to chewing tobacco to cigars. If you need help quitting, your medical team can help.

Control your weight. Here’s a general rule to help you see where you stand: If you’re a man, a waistline that’s more than 40 inches around makes you more likely to have a condition like diabetes or heart disease. If you’re a woman, it’s a waistline more than 35 inches. Your medical team can help you get your weight in line.

Manage Your Job and Finances

If myelofibrosis has pulled you away from work, your spirits may get a boost if you go back when you’re up to it. That can help you feel like you’re back to your normal life and get you out of the house and around other people.

If you think fatigue or other effects of myelofibrosis could affect your work:

  • Ask your boss if you can start part-time or work on a flexible schedule.
  • Be patient with yourself as you build up your strength and mental focus.
  • You might ask your doctor to write a letter explaining what myelofibrosis is and how it can affect you.

If your condition means you have to work less, and that makes it harder to pay your bills, there are places to turn:

  • Nonprofit groups like the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance may help with medical expenses.
  • Programs like Social Security and the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program may offer financial support to help cover your day-to-day expenses. Your local and county governments can offer suggestions, too.

Show Sources


Leukaemia Foundation: “Primary Myelofibrosis.”

Cancer Care: “Coping with Myelofibrosis,” “Coping with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs).”

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: “Follow-Up Care and Survivorship,” “Healthy Behaviors.”

OncoLink: “Heel Lifts -- Gastrocneumius and Soleus (Calf Muscles).”

Leukaemia Care: “Myelofibrosis (MF).”

American Cancer Society: “Life After Treatment: The Next Chapter in Your Survivorship Journey,” “Returning to Work after Cancer Treatment.”

Children’s Oncology Group: “Staying Healthy Through Diet and Physical Activity,” “Educational Issues after Cancer Treatment,” “Emotional Issues after Cancer Treatment.”

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