Self-Care for Multiple Myeloma

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 15, 2021
4 min read

Multiple myeloma is an uncommon type of cancer that can lead to bone fractures, blood clots, kidney damage, infections, and other issues. During your treatment or remission, you can do many things to stay as healthy as possible and feel better.

During multiple myeloma treatment or while you’re in remission, your doctors and nurses will want to carefully watch your health. It’s important to schedule and attend all your follow-up appointments. Your care team will be able to look for things like changes in your bone pain or more frequent infections.

Your appointments may include regular blood tests and bone scans to see if your disease is progressing. If it seems to be getting worse, your doctors may suggest different treatments or additional ways to manage related issues.

Your doctor will also focus on any possible complications such as:

  • Anemia
  • High blood calcium levels
  • Areas of severe bone loss
  • Pain and bone fractures
  • Kidney failure
  • Risk of infections

People with multiple myeloma usually have a lower number of normal antibodies that protect against infection but high amounts of abnormal ones. Your doctor might treat you with corticosteroids and chemotherapy if this is the case. These treatments could make you more prone to infections. Overall, multiple myeloma and its treatment could make you 7 to 10 times more likely to get an infection than someone without the condition.

You may also be at a higher risk of:

It’s important to make use of preventative strategies so that you lower your risk of infection. This might include using antibiotics, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), vaccines, or growth factors, which are drugs that stimulate the creation of certain types of cells. Talk to your doctor about different treatments to lower the risk of infections.

You can make a few adjustments to live a healthier life with multiple myeloma. They include:

Diet changes.Nutrition is a big part of multiple myeloma self-care. Eat a well-balanced diet during and after treatment to help improve the way you feel, better your strength, and speed up your recovery.

Keeping a healthy weight is also important. A balanced diet will help you avoid gaining or losing excess weight.

Eat small and frequent meals throughout your day. Eating 5-6 small meals will help your body get enough calories and nutrients without overeating and feeling nauseous. Fill your plate with nutritious foods that won’t hurt your stomach:

  • Stay away from spicy or fried items.
  • Focus on blander foods with less intense odors, like cheese, crackers, yogurt, or pasta.
  • Incorporate high protein foods to help your body’s cells, tissues, and immune system recover.
  • Include whole grains to keep a good energy level.
  • Add a variety of fruits and vegetables every day for antioxidants.
  • Eat healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds, or olive oil. Stay away from greasy options.
  • Limit added sugars.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid excess caffeine.

Exercise. Before you start any physical activity, talk to your doctor. With multiple myeloma, you might be at risk of mobility issues, falls, or fractures. Your doctor will be able to assess you regularly to see what kind of exercise you can do and what you should avoid. They may suggest that you work with a physical or occupational therapist.

In addition, your doctor might create an exercise plan for you that details how many times a week to workout, how intense the sessions can be, how long they should last, and what type of activities you should do.

Using supplements.Dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and products made from animal parts, plants, algae, yeasts, or seafood. Certain supplements may help combat disease and help boost your overall health, but they aren't intended to replace foods. You should always talk to your doctor before taking any of these. They can help you decide which supplements might help you and which to stay away from.

Stress relief. Stress can be very harmful for people with multiple myeloma. This is a type of cancer that can damage your bone marrow and the cells it produces. Your bone marrow normally helps your immune system work by making antibody-producing cells. Stress makes things more complicated because it greatly disrupts your immune system.

It may be hard to lower stress when you have multiple myeloma, but there are things you can do to help feel more relaxed:

  • Talk to a professional counselor
  • Ask your doctor about whether you might take anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication
  • Talk to your close friends and family about your stress
  • Take some time each day to relax and de-stress
  • Meditate
  • Adjust your medication (multiple myeloma steroid medication might worsen anxiety)
  • Realize your feelings are normal

Better sleep. It’s important to talk to your doctor about fatigue. They can adjust your medication, tweak your diet, enhance your electrolyte and fluid intake, or help you find a medication to help with feeling sleepy or fatigued.

You can also get regular exercise, prioritize your schedule so that you don’t overwhelm yourself, plan fun activities, and try to create a balanced sleep schedule to help with your fatigue.

Limit alcohol use.Alcohol can dehydrate you and drinking excessively could harm your immune system. It’s best to stay away from drinking alcohol completely or drink in moderation.