Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 09, 2023
Your Multiple Myeloma Care Journey
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Your Multiple Myeloma Care Journey

Multiple myeloma and its treatments touch you personally, professionally, and socially. It takes time and effort to stay on top of your treatments, medical appointments, and day-to-day care – not to mention the stress of living with uncertainty. Black people, who are twice as likely as white people to get multiple myeloma, face some extra challenges. Proactively taking steps to manage your condition can help you deal with them. 

Stay Ahead of the Knowledge Curve
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Stay Ahead of the Knowledge Curve

Racial barriers sometimes keep people of color from getting the best care and the most cutting-edge treatments. To deal with these obstacles, start by learning everything you can about multiple myeloma. Set aside time each week to fill in any gaps in your knowledge. This will help you make better decisions about your care with your oncology team. 

Become Your Own Best Advocate
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Become Your Own Best Advocate

With the right treatments, Black people have a better survival rate than white people with multiple myeloma. But people of color may not readily be offered advances like stem cell transplants or the latest drugs. The medical community is working to change that, but in the meantime, you need to advocate for yourself. Take an active role in your care. Investigate the latest treatment advances, then ask your team how to get them.

Tap Into Targeted Resources
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Tap Into Targeted Resources

Many cancer organizations offer programs to help close health care gaps for people of color. Connect with cancer specialists, patient navigators, and coaches who share resources and offer guidance through initiatives like: 

  • The HealthTree Foundation for Multiple Myeloma's Myeloma Coach Program 
  • The International Myeloma Foundation's African-American Initiative 
  • The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's Patient Navigation Center
Create a Survivorship Care Plan 
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Create a Survivorship Care Plan 

This document spells out the follow-up care your doctor recommends. It may include information about healthy lifestyle habits like diet and exercise along with:

  • Treatment details
  • Side effects to watch for
  • Signs you should call your doctor
  • Dates for doctor visits and tests

Talk with your doctor about what yours should look like. You can download a template from the American Society of Clinical Oncology website. 

Diet Matters
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Diet Matters

Nutrition is an important part of self-care. Focus on plant-based foods: 

  • Vegetables and fruits 
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Limit processed and fatty meat, fried foods, and those high in added sugar. Many people with multiple myeloma are short on vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12, and sometimes iron. Talk to your doctor about testing your nutrient levels. Check with them before you take any supplement.

Be Active to Boost Body and Mind
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Be Active to Boost Body and Mind

Even when you do it in short sessions throughout the day, and even if you do it seated or in bed, exercise helps give you:

  • More energy
  • Better healing
  • Less stress and fatigue
  • A more positive attitude
  • Sounder sleep

If you’re unsure how to get started, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist who can work within any limitations you may have.

Aim for Better Sleep 
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Aim for Better Sleep 

Pain, worry, depression, and even your meds can keep you from needed sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene:

  • Take only short daytime naps.
  • Go to sleep and wake at the same times each day.
  • Skip caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods before bed.
  • Turn off devices an hour before bedtime.

Not helpful enough? Try techniques like meditation, massage, or relaxation therapy. Or check out cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Care for Your Emotional Well-Being 
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Care for Your Emotional Well-Being 

A cancer diagnosis may set off all kinds of emotions. Some multiple myeloma treatments can also affect your mood. It may help to express your feelings, whether to a friend or support group or just by writing them down. Exercise and time outdoors might also improve your outlook. If feelings of depression or anxiety persist or interfere with daily life, tell your health care team. They can refer you to a mental health professional.

Put Happiness on the Agenda
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Put Happiness on the Agenda

Build uplifting moments into your day to keep multiple myeloma from defining who you are. Set aside a half-hour to watch a comedy, listen to a podcast, take an online class, or spend time with friends. You might also set a longer-range plan, like a weekend trip, to have something to look forward to. 

Guard Against Infections
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Guard Against Infections

Multiple myeloma and its treatments may leave you at higher risk of infections. Even the common cold can pose a threat. To protect yourself:

  • Frequently wash your hands and wipe down surfaces in your home.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Tell loved ones to postpone a visit if they’re under the weather.

Ask your cancer team about the right vaccines for you and your caregiver. And don’t hesitate to let them know if you notice any signs of an infection. 

Don't Miss a Follow-Up Visit
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Don't Miss a Follow-Up Visit

These visits help you stay on top of symptoms, get tests you need, learn if your treatment is working, and get advice about side effects. You can also use the time to share how you feel emotionally -- don’t wait for your doctor to ask. In fact, let your medical team know if you need support in any area, whether it's financial, emotional, or with the activities of daily life. They may be able to suggest resources that can help.

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BMC Cancer: “The work of managing multiple myeloma and its implications for treatment-related decision making: a qualitative study of patient and caregiver experiences.”

Innovation in Aging: “Living with Multiple Myeloma: Self-Management Strategies.” 

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation: “Multiple Myeloma in African Americans,” “Patient Navigation Center.”

International Myeloma Foundation: “How can the IMF help you to get the best care possible?” “How is myeloma different in African Americans?”

Blood Cancer Journal: “Black patients with multiple myeloma have better survival than white patients when treated equally: a matched cohort study,” “Lifestyle considerations in multiple myeloma.”

National Cancer Institute: “Multiple Myeloma Awareness and African American Disparities,” “Keep Up with Your Daily Routine,” “Emotions and Cancer.”

HealthTree Foundation for Multiple Myeloma: “What is the Myeloma Coach Program?” “Black Myeloma Health,” "Mental Health & Myeloma: Let's Talk About It."

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: “Myeloma Link.”

Cancer Support Community: “Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Multiple Myeloma,” “10 Tips for Living Well with Multiple Myeloma.” 

American Cancer Society: “Living as a Multiple Myeloma Survivor.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Care: “Returning Home After Your Autologous Stem Cell Transplant.”