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Coping

Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope with a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukaemia.

CML is usually a very slowly developing condition. It can be cured in some people and well controlled for years in others with biological therapy treatments. 

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it is hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

CML and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Such changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends. 

Helping yourself

You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.

Treatment side effects

CML and its treatment may cause physical changes in your body. These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. 

You may feel very tired and lethargic a lot of the time, especially if you are having treatment. You may have side effects from treatment, such as skin rashes, feeling sick or a sore mouth. 

Side effects of treatment can often be treated. Let your doctor or specialist nurse know about any effects you have so they can help to reduce them.

Relationships and sex

The physical changes you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

Coping practically

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting early help with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
20 Nov 2014
  • Essential haematology (6th edition)
    V Hoffbrand and D Moss
    Wiley-Blackwell 2011

  • Cancer and its management (6th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Blackwell, 2010

Information and help

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