By Jeyashree Sundaram (MBA)
Cancerous lymphocytes (white blood cells) that develop in the bone marrow cause chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). These cancer cells gradually blend with the blood. CLL develops very slowly, hence the signs and symptoms of this cancer are invisible for certain years.
Due to this, the cancer cells have the tendency to spread to the neighboring parts of the body such as the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.
Support for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Patients who have undergone treatment for CLL must visit their physician every three months. At every visit, the patient is examined physically and blood tests are done to monitor the condition. After treatment, the number of cancer cells should reduce and the signs of the disease diminish. Though people can live without any additional treatment, in some cases, there are chances of recurrence of CLL.
In these cases, the doctor prescribes the usual medications that have been followed before, or new therapies to be taken into consideration. Targeted and clinical trial medications which have been approved in recent years play a vital role in improving the condition of CLL patients.
Support Organizations for CLL
Leukemia care: Charity organizations for blood cancer support, which are formed to provide the right information, support, care, and advice to patients affected by blood cancer, provide a range of support to the patients in the form of 24*7 care, conference for caregiver and patients, and provision of support groups.
Support association for CLL: Support organizations often promote research as well as treatment for CLL. Their main objective is to give support and information to people with the disease.
Follow-up care: For patients with CLL, the doctor has to monitor the condition very closely from the beginning to the end stage of the treatment. It is necessary for the patient to attend the follow-up appointment with the doctor. These appointments will comprise a question–answer session regarding the person’s health, lab tests, scans, X-rays, and physical examination.
All these tests are performed to ensure that there is no sign of cancer or side effect after the treatment. Every cancer has the capability to cause side effects, which can be temporary or exist throughout the patient’s life. Patients have the responsibility to inform doctor if they experience any new symptom; this helps the doctor to find the root cause relatively easily.
Support from family and friends: Patients might feel it difficult to discuss the disease with their family members. Talking about the illness, however, with someone will widely help in gaining support and confidence. Reactions depend on the person with whom the patients share the news.
Mingle with other survivors: After treatment, the patients have to make efforts to join cancer support groups. The support group can be within their community or elsewhere. Mingling with people of same diagnosis can widely help in gaining information, encouragement, and real-time tips to cope up with the disease.
Relaxation techniques: Patients with CLL undergo certain tests and physical exams. They consciously worry more about the count of their white blood cells. To get away from that, patients must try activities like exercise, yoga, gardening, and other activities that keep them relaxed and comfortable. To manage emotional changes, patients may try talking to a therapist or a counselor.
Psychological support: People affected by CLL are often found anxious or depressed. To overcome these emotions, the patient has to seek help from a psycho-oncologist or a common physician who has expertise in psychological behavior of cancer. Social workers might help patients with financial support so that they can continue the ongoing treatment.
Weakness management: People affected by CLL often feel weakness or fatigue. In rehabilitation centers, physical therapists outline programs such as strength training exercises and aerobics to make the patients recover from weakness occurring due to the treatment. After the program, an evaluation is done and patients are advised a rehabilitation program. This program helps patients to be independent or confident in their community and society.
Palliative care: A particular kind of medical care that provides gradual relief from pain and other signs of illness is called palliative care. Specialists in palliative care work closely with patients, their family members, and their doctor to provide an additional support to the ongoing care. Patients suffering from CLL feel better and live long when palliative care is provided with other relevant treatments.
Support for patients can exist in in the form of friends, relatives, support or spiritual groups, church, online counseling, or face-to-face counseling. The option decided upon depends ultimately on the patient’s personality and situation. Some may feel comfortable with support groups, but others may feel worship places to be suitable for talking about or discussing their disease. Some others may feel comfortable with face-to-face counseling. The place of strength does not matter; what matters is that your concerns are getting properly addressed.