Fighting Fatigue and Anxiety: Mental and Physical Strength Building Tools

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Topics include: Understanding and Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Fatigue and anxiety are two of the many feelings that may arise for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and can affect quality of life for both patients and their families. How can patients alleviate symptoms? What are some day-to-day coping strategies? Social work counselor Purva Lad and Dr. Jackie Broadway-Duren, from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, share tips for communicating uncomfortable symptoms to your health care team and explain how to access resources to help manage the physical, emotional and mental aspects of living with CLL. Patient advocate Wesley Bishop also discusses how he handles good and bad days with the disease.

Provided by CLL Global Research Foundation, which received support from AbbVie Inc., Gilead Sciences, Inc.,Pharmacyclics LLC and TG Therapeutics. It is produced by Patient Power in collaboration with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Jeff Folloder:

One of the things that was brought up in the first part of the session was what I’ve called the counterintuitive idea of exercising. CLL is a disease of fatigue, and let’s be realistic, this is a somewhat sedentary society that we live in. And, the concept of going and exerting yourself, while you’re feeling horrible, doesn’t exactly make sense. But, why does it work?

Purva Lad:                     

I think it’s, as the doctors were saying earlier, just the adrenaline that you get, even from doing something simple. So, when the doctors recommend exercise to help you with whatever you might be feeling, they’re not saying, go to the gym, and lift 100-pound weights, and go on the elliptical for 30 minutes. Even something as small as taking a power walk, even if it’s starting slowly, from one room of your house to the next, if you’re having a day where you’re fatigued. It’s those baby steps that make a difference, in the long run. And, I think a big piece of it that people tend to forget is, it all starts up here.

So, if you can think it into being, it is more likely to happen. If you can at least convince yourself that, okay, tomorrow or the day after, I will try, just for five minutes, to take ten steps, and work up form there, that makes it a lot easier to manage.

Jeff Folloder:               

What else can people do to manage the mental aspects of the CLL diagnosis?

I know we have a lot of physical symptoms that we’re dealing with. The night sweats, the fatigue, the swollen lymph nodes. Spleen issues. There’s all kinds of very physical stuff. But, dealing with the mental stuff. When a man comes into the doctor’s office, and Jackie asks the question, how are we feeling today? And, the answer is, fine. And, the wife is doing this? Folks, how do we deal with this stuff? 

Dr. Broadway-Duren:

Well, I generally tell them that whatever they’re feeling is expected, as a part of the disease process, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But, believe it or not, men are the most difficult ones to get to admit that they’re tired.

So, you have to quantify things, and give them a scale, and then they always attribute it to, I’m older, even if they’re 56, or—you know, it’s always a reason why they’re tired. So, the first thing is, they have to accept the fact that—accept the diagnosis. And then, I encourage them to meet with support groups. Or content—talk to their maybe faith-based community. Or, sometimes, people may even need counseling from a professional counselor, if that’s the way that they can cope. Because it’s not just the fact that they were diagnosed with the disease, then they’re faced with – if they’re the sole breadwinner for the family, how’s this gonna affect family income, or family dynamics, and you know, sexual, emotional, and all other aspects of their lives. 

Jeff Folloder:               

Is any of this sounding familiar, Wesley? Did you deal with this stuff?

Wesley Bishop:                       

You know, it gets back to where you don’t want the disease to define who you are. And, I think myself, and my wife, as we discussed it, we wanted—I had just sold the dental practice, and was working two days a week, and thoroughly enjoying it. But, we had to look past that, now. There’s not a timetable of life, so we didn’t want to define what we were going to do. We were enjoying each other more, and our environment, and the freedom that we have. And, there were days that I would sit on the couch, and didn’t really feel like, in the initial treatment. But that next day, I’d feel like I’d be ready to go. And, that’s what you have to look, there’s gonna be some bad days. But, the next day, you’ve gotta be ready to go if you feel good. And…

Jeff Folloder:               

Purva, how do people access the extra help that they might need? How do you get the assistance with the coping with the anxiety? How do you get somebody to talk to?

Purva Lad:                   

There’s a variety of ways that you can do that, and it doesn’t just have to be through a social worker, or through your medical team. Here at MD Anderson, regardless of where you are, whether you’re just visiting in clinic, or whether you’re admitted in-patient, you have a social worker that’s assigned to you, we’re all trained in counseling, and most other major cancer centers in the U.S. as well, all have trained social workers, who are available to speak to you, speak to your family members. Support groups are one of the best saviors that I’ve experienced, both with my family members, as well as my patients. It gives folks an opportunity to talk to others, that have gone through the same thing. We, as your doctors, or nurses, or social workers, can listen, and try to empathize, and try to gain an understanding. 

But, the best way to really feel heard is to be exactly where you are, in a setting like this, around others who have been through what you’ve been through and experienced the same things as you. And, those types of groups are available in major hospitals, as well as through organizations like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

And American Cancer Society, their websites will be able to provide you with the closest support group to your ZIP code.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on March 28, 2019