Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, is a life-changing diagnosis. Managing lymphoma often involves undergoing treatments like chemotherapy and following up with many different medical visits and lymphoma blood tests. Living with lymphoma can take a large physical and emotional toll on a person.
Lifestyle changes might not directly affect a person’s lymphoma, but they can make a difference for physical and mental health. They can improve mood, bolster emotional health, and possibly alleviate some symptoms. This article discusses some positive ways to help live your best life with lymphoma.
What is Lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a family of different blood cancers that start in the lymphatic system. It develops when certain white blood cells called lymphocytes (cells that help your immune system fight off infections) start to grow abnormally; eventually outnumbering healthy cells.
Treatment for lymphoma may include a combination of several different therapies, including chemotherapy, targeted therapies, or stem cell transplant. While managing lymphoma, there are some things within your control that you can do to improve your health and well-being.
Aim For A Balanced Diet
A healthy diet contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, provides your body with energy, is rich in fiber, and offers enough protein to build strength.
One technique for promoting a balanced diet is the plate method:
- Half of your plate should comprise vegetables — the more colorful this section, the more nutritious.
- One quarter of your plate should have a healthy, or lean, protein like chicken, salmon, or lentils.
- The last quarter of your plate should hold a carbohydrate such as whole-grain pasta, quinoa, or sweet potato.
Discuss your diet with your cancer treatment team. You may need more of certain nutrients than others during different phases of your lymphoma treatment. Your dietary needs, appetite, and food preferences may also change throughout the course of your lymphoma journey.
Try Meditation to Quiet the Mind
Research suggests that meditation can help relieve anxiety, promote a sense of calm, and improve mood. Meditation may also have physiological effects, like reducing blood pressure. There are many different types of meditation, from seating in a quiet room, to deep breathing exercises, to tai chi. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center offers guided meditation videos. Online videos can be a great place to get started.
Take Care of Yourself
Now is the time to focus on yourself, provide yourself with care, and do what you can to stay healthy while living with lymphoma.
Here are a few self-care suggestions that can help you to feel better while managing lymphoma:
- Treat yourself to new self care products like a nice body lotion or new makeup. Cancer can change your appearance, sometimes dramatically. Products to pamper your body can help you embrace your new look.
- Talk about what you’re going through. Whether that’s a good friend or a therapist, it’s helpful to have someone to help you process the ups and downs of lymphoma.
- Connect with those who get it. Join an online or in-person peer-support community to connect with others living with lymphoma. There may also be in-person meet ups near you for lymphoma survivors who will understand.
Try Helping Others
If you have the energy for it, activities like volunteering and community service have been shown to improve mood. Giving back can help you feel productive and create a sense of belonging. Sometimes, doing something for someone else is doing something for you.
There are many types of volunteer opportunities, including many that can be done from home. For example, an organization may need help creating an email listserv or recruiting volunteers for an event. If and when you feel up to it, you might consider the following volunteer opportunities:
- Help package groceries for a local food pantry or mutual aid society or help coordinate volunteers if packing in person isn’t a good option for you.
- Volunteer with your local library, house of worship, or community center.
- Advocate for more funding for lymphoma research by calling or writing to your state and federal representatives.
- Participate in volunteer activities with a cancer organization.
Making just a few, small changes can help you through your lymphoma journey. Lifestyle changes offer the chance for you to exert control over your circumstances in ways that could benefit your physical and mental health.