Returning to normal life after a Lymphoma diagnosis.
Now that you are in remission for lymphoma, you can start to get on with your life again. While you may not be ready to go back to work, you can certainly start to enjoy daily activities and even take up old hobbies again.
For the majority of time, you will probably not think about lymphoma at all, with the only reminder coming when you have your regular check-ups at the clinic. While these visits may be daunting, they are an ideal opportunity to ask any questions you may have, reassure yourself that things are going well and, if anything is found, catch it early and ensure it's treated properly.
Regular Check ups
- How often you have a check-up after treatment for lymphoma depends on a range of factors, such as the type of disease, the treatment given and your overall health and response to therapy.
- At the beginning, patients will often be seen at the specialist clinic every month. If good progress is being made, this will be gradually increased until the patient has a check-up every 3 and 6 months, or even once a year.
- During the visit, the doctor will ask about your general condition and perform a physical examination, before arranging any diagnostic tests. These may be the same as the original diagnostic and staging tests, such as blood tests, X-rays and scans.
- As always, it's important to prepare in advance for each check-up, and have everything ready that you were asked to bring. Also, make sure that any questions you may have are written down, rather than trying to remember them at the time.
- It can be quite stressful to be reminded about the disease, and many patients worry that the doctor may give them bad news. However, check-ups are an ideal opportunity to catch the first signs of a relapse, should it occur, and for you to tell the doctor about any remaining symptoms you have.
- If you are worried about the visit, or are concerned that you may forget things that you are told, think about taking a friend or family member along for support.
Some questions to think about after treatment has finished
- What will successful treatment mean for me and how long will the benefits last?
- What further tests might be needed? How often might they be needed?
- What will these tests show?
- How often will I have to attend the clinic? For how long?
- What happens if I relapse?
- Is there anything we can do to keep the disease away during remission?
Returning to normal life after a Lymphoma diagnosis
- Some patients with lymphoma are able to return to normal life almost immediately after treatment, while others take a lot longer to resume daily activities. However you are affected, it's important that you feel at your best and live as full a life as possible now that the disease has gone away.
To achieve this, you should eat a healthy diet in order to give your body all it needs to recover, and learn how to deal with the stresses and strains of living with lymphoma.
- Now that treatment is over, it will be tempting to push yourself and try to take on all your old activities, or try new ones, before you are ready. Always be realistic about how you much you can manage, and take things one day at a time.
- The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone. You can even share your story, and read those of fellow patients with lymphoma, on this website. To do so, simply visit "Patient stories".
Stress Management and Wellbeing Therapies
Are you experiencing stress?
Stress is a normal reaction to cancer. The most common emotions that are experienced by cancer patients are fear, anxiety, depression and anger. There can be stress around undergoing tests, waiting for test results, receiving a diagnosis, undergoing treatment or anticipating a recurrence of cancer. Along with these challenges there may be stress associated with coping with family or work roles and the loss of control over life events, appearance changes, fear of death, fear of suffering and pain and fear of the unknown.
Understandably, this can be an overwhelming experience for people with cancer and for their carers. To improve cancer patient's quality of life and chances for survival, support is needed to assist in coping with the emotional side affects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
About psychological stress
The term psychological stress refers to the emotional and physiological responses experienced when a person faces a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources.
How psychological stress affects the body
Research shows that psychological stress can affect the immune system, the body's defence against infection and disease. The body responds to psychological stress by releasing stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are produced by the body to assist a person to respond to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels.
Large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol suppress the immune system. An example of this is when a person gets an organ transplant they are given synthetic steroids (e.g., cortisol) to suppress immunity to reduce allergic reactions so the body does not reject the transplant.
When you are stressed you are activating a sympathetic nervous system response called Fight or Flight. In primitive times, these responses would have helped us to survive dangerous situations such as attacks or hunting. This system would have been activated every so often, but not constantly on a daily basis as it is in modern times where psychological stress is very common. When this system is activated, rational thought can be "switched off" and your ability to see a situation clearly is compromised.
How to reduce psychological stress
To "turn" the Fight or Flight response, the para-sympathetic nervous system needs to be activated. This response is called Rest and Digest. This system is activated when the body is at rest, and promotes rational thought, conservation of energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. To activate this system, activities that promote relaxation are needed.
Top 10 relaxation activities you can do at home
- Positive thinking
- Breathing exercises
- Expressing your feelings
- Journal writing
- Spending time with friends and family
- Creative therapy
Complementary therapies that promote relaxation
What are Complementary Therapies?
Complementary therapies are used in addition to standard mainstream cancer treatments to provide supportive care to patients.
Generally complementary therapies assist in relaxation; promoting a stronger immune system and improved quality of life. It is important to inform your doctor prior to receiving a complementary therapy.
Complementary Therapies: Examples
Massage involves the movement of soft tissue including rubbing, pressing and kneading the skin and superficial muscles. Massage can increase the suppleness of muscles, promote circulation and reduce pain and emotional stress. There are many different types of massage, some concentrate more on relaxation while others focus more on repairing damaged muscle tissue.
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine developed over five thousand years, involves the placing of fine sterile needles into specific points in the skin. These specific points are called acupoints. Acupoints have been confirmed through electromagnetic research and when stimulated promote the flow of Qi (energy) and blood through distinct pathways (meridians) that cover the body. Acupuncture has been found to relieve pain, nausea, relax muscles and promote relaxation and well being.
Kinesiology encompasses holistic health therapies and uses muscle testing to locate stress in the mind and body. Techniques such as acupressure are applied to release the stress and enable the body's ability to relax, heal and maintain balance. This system is helpful in understanding the deeper subconscious and how psychological stress can affect the health of the body.
Counsellors can provide emotional support by allowing the patient to express their feelings and develop an understanding about themselves and their situation. Although you may be receiving support from your family and friends, sometimes it is easier to talk to someone who is outside of your immediate circle.
The Bowen Technique involves a series of gently rolling connective tissue moves to balance and stimulate energy flows. Regular pauses in movement are incorporated to give the body time to reset and heal itself. A deep sense of relaxation can be experienced and the therapy can be done through clothing.
Guided Meditation incorporates the aid of a person or voice which assists your subconscious to reach a point of deep relaxation, contemplation and reflection. Breathing techniques can be used and are shown to be a very powerful tool for pain relief and well being.
Aromatherapy involves the use essential oils derived from plants to promote relaxation and healing. When the oils are absorbed through the skin or inhaled, the body's tissues are stimulated and this can have a healing effect. Research has shown that essential oils have the potential to trigger chemical reactions in the brain. These chemical reactions can have a powerful psychological and physical effect, promoting balance in the mind and body.
There are varied divisions of Qi Gong that can focus on different areas of the mind body and spirit. Qi Gong is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine and works to balance the flow of energy (Qi) within the body. This therapy can be effective in treating illness, promoting longevity and improve general well being. A deep sense of relaxation can be experienced with the use of breathing techniques, soft movements (standing or sitting) and meditation techniques.
Reflexology incorporates specific types of massage movements on a persons foot or hand. These specific points correspond to organs and parts of the body. This therapy dates as far back as the ancient Egyptians and can encourage balance, relaxation and well being.
Reiki is a Japanese therapy and involves the practitioner placing or hovering their hands over Chakra's and Meridians (areas of energy flow) in the body to transfer healing energy. This promotes the flow of energy to strengthen the person's life force and remove blockages. Reiki is an excellent therapy to promote relaxation and stress management.
Art Therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that incorporates a variety of artistic activities to encourage participants to express themselves more freely and manage stress. Participants are provided with a safe environment to express themselves creatively via the art they produce and this can aid in the healing process.
Anita Crosbie Kinesiologist
Dip. Health Science (Kinesiology)
From The DVD - "Your Journey Of Lymphoma Treatments"
Related video : Chapter 14 - Living With Lymphoma