Leukemia: Chronic Myelomonocytic

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After Treatment TOPICS

Lifestyle changes after treatment for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia

You can’t change the fact that you have had cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life -- making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you are thinking about how to improve your health over the long term. Some people even start during cancer treatment.

Making healthier choices

For many people, a diagnosis of cancer helps them focus on their health in ways they may not have thought much about in the past. Are there things you could do that might make you healthier? Maybe you could try to eat better or get more exercise. Maybe you could cut down on the alcohol, or give up tobacco. Even things like keeping your stress level under control may help. Now is a good time to think about making changes that can have positive effects for the rest of your life. You will feel better and you will also be healthier.

You can start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information and support. This tobacco cessation and coaching service can help increase your chances of quitting for good.

Eating better

Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after cancer treatment. Treatment may change your sense of taste. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don’t want to. Or you might have gained weight that you can’t seem to lose. All of these things can be very frustrating.

If treatment caused weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems usually get better over time. You may find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better. You may also want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition, who can give you ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.

One of the best things you can do after cancer treatment is put healthy eating habits into place. You may be surprised at the long-term benefits of some simple changes, like increasing the variety of healthy foods you eat. Try to eat 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Choose whole grain foods instead of those made with white flour and sugars. Try to limit meats that are high in fat. Cut back on processed meats like hot dogs, bologna, and bacon. Better yet, don’t eat any of these, if you can. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks a day at the most.

For more information about nutrition, see our document Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families. The section called “Additional resources for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia” lists some other documents that you might find helpful.

Rest, fatigue, work, and exercise

Extreme tiredness, called fatigue, is very common in people treated for cancer. This is not a normal tiredness, but a “bone-weary” exhaustion that doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment, and can make it hard for them to exercise and do other things they want to do. But exercise can help reduce fatigue. Studies have shown that patients who follow an exercise program tailored to their personal needs feel better physically and emotionally and can cope better, too.

If you were sick and not very active during treatment, it is normal for your fitness, endurance, and muscle strength to decline. Any plan for physical activity should fit your own situation. A person who has never exercised will not be able to take on the same amount of exercise as someone who plays tennis twice a week. If you haven’t exercised in a few years, you will have to start slowly -- maybe just by taking short walks.

Talk with your health care team before starting anything. Get their opinion about your exercise plans. Then, try to find an exercise buddy so you're not doing it alone. Having family or friends involved when starting a new exercise program can give you that extra boost of support to keep you going when the push just isn’t there.

If you are very tired, you will need to balance activity with rest. It is OK to rest when you need to. Sometimes it’s really hard for people to allow themselves to rest when they are used to working all day or taking care of a household, but this is not the time to push yourself too hard. Listen to your body and rest when you need to. For more information on dealing with fatigue, please see Fatigue in People With Cancer and Anemia in People With Cancer. A list of some other documents about treatment side effects can be found in the section, “Additional resources for chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.”

Keep in mind exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.

  • It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) fitness.
  • Along with a good diet, it will help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • It makes your muscles stronger.
  • It reduces fatigue and helps you have more energy.
  • It can help lower anxiety and depression.
  • It can help make you feel happier.
  • It can help you feel better about yourself.

And long term, we know that exercise plays a role in helping to lower the risk of some cancers. In the American Cancer Society guidelines on physical activity for cancer prevention, we recommend that adults take part in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above usual activities, on 5 or more days of the week; 45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity are even better.


Last Medical Review: 01/19/2014
Last Revised: 03/21/2014