Support & resources
Living with a leukaemia diagnosis or supporting someone who has been diagnosed can be very difficult. It’s important to look after yourself as much as you can and remember, there are lots of ways to seek support if you feel you need it.
If you are looking for help with your mental health and wellbeing, financial support or you would like to connect with others going through a similar experience, there are many organisations across the UK that are here for you. From practical advice, hints and tips, groups to join and online chats – you will find a variety of options available through the following organisations.
Top tips for keeping mentally healthy
Looking after your mental health when you have blood cancer can be challenging. But there are lots of things you can do to help yourself. Most importantly, be patient with yourself and remember that there will be emotional ups and downs.
Here, the Leukaemia UK Mind & Body team at King’s College Hospital share some of the top tips they offer to the patients they support.
Ask for support, early
A lot of people with haematological illnesses tell us life is unrecognisable to what it was before their illness. People really struggle with that and can need support from mental health professionals, family and friends.
But a lot of people don’t feel confident enough to speak up. It’s really important to ask for support to do the activities that gave you a sense of purpose and meaning before you became unwell, and ask for it early.
Remember you’re still you
Your diagnosis hasn’t changed who you are. You’re still the same person, you’re just facing a really difficult situation. People often forget the skills and the resources that they had before and feel lost.
Keep doing the things that matter to you
Quite often, some of the first conversations we have with people involve asking:
“If you were having a bad day previously, what would have helped?”, or “What type of things are important to you?”
Even though you’re tired and you’ve got to come into hospital, how can you make sure you’re still doing things you value and that bring you pleasure?
Watch your thinking
No one is suggesting you shouldn’t be thinking about your situation, but sometimes thoughts can become unbalanced and unhelpful. It’s important to watch how you’re thinking. You might convince yourself things aren’t going well when, actually, they are.
Talking about how you’re feeling is an important part of managing the situation and your distress. It helps make sense of situations, which is something we often want to do when faced with something difficult like a blood cancer diagnosis. It can be really helpful to find a way to express and explore your thoughts and feelings with others.
Find a balance
That said, there is a balance to be struck between focusing too much on the problem or avoiding it altogether. It’s very helpful when people learn to strike a balance between facing the problem head on, talking about it and thinking about how to cope with it. But then putting it away for a while and refocusing on the things you’re passionate about.
It can be difficult to avoid turning inward if you’re in hospital for long periods in relative isolation. That’s why it’s important to remain connected, whether it’s to staff in the hospital or loved ones. Use devices and social media such as WhatsApp and FaceTime. These are helpful ways of remaining connected to life outside the hospital room.
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad
Keeping mentally healthy involves making space for difficult feelings, acknowledging them and understanding you have a right to feel those things. Having compassion or empathy for yourself is key in remaining emotionally well when going through any journey with cancer.
Focus on the present
It’s important to notice when your mind is jumping ahead. When you’re feeling anxious, you can assume the future and come to negative conclusions. These may not be based on what you’re dealing with now. Staying in the present as much as possible can be helpful.
For those undergoing blood cancer treatment, you may be able to find out about the emotional support that could be available for you by asking your medical team.