The experience of living with chronic myelogenous leukemia has undergone a sea-change over the past two decades. The advent of a daily pill to suppress CML has meant that most people can now maintain their lifestyle and live a normal lifespan.
But the medical aspect is only part of the story. There is still the psychological impact of living with a form of blood cancer – which is another kind of burden and one that is less amenable to treatment.
A recent study investigated the lifestyle and well-being of people living with CML (Efficace and colleagues. Support Care Cancer 2016;24:4887-4894). People ranged in age from 19 to 87 years of age (the median was 56 years). All were being well managed on a medication.
The single most important factor that contributed to a person’s well-being was having support from family, friends or support groups. People who got the support they needed were less likely to feel depressed or anxious, and more likely to feel that they had greater vitality and self-control. Support was especially important to women, who were at higher risk of depression and anxiety.
“Self-control” in this context means being able to maintain a sense of your life and satisfaction with the choices you make (and what life chooses for you), and to set goals and achieve them to your liking (despite hurdles and setbacks). According to the Self-Control model of depression, people are more prone to depression if they accept unreasonable or externally-imposed goals. For example, if a person sets an unreasonable goal of achieving 100% on every test, a less-than-perfect score may be attributed to a personal failing (“I’m not smart enough”). The challenge is to strive without setting yourself up for failure.
These findings indicate how important it is to ensure that you get the love and support you need as you take on the challenges of living with CML – family, friends, and people in your community can be invaluable. It’s also important to set goals that are important to you (and maybe only to you), work to achieve them, but cut yourself some slack if you fall short of what you’d hoped to accomplish. Keep trying, and you may be able to achieve your goal tomorrow.
For more on support groups for people with CML, see TILT, Lisa Machado’s column on CML-IQ.