If you have leukemia or lymphoma, you and your family are on a difficult journey. But you don’t have to travel it alone. Palliative care can help.
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with serious illnesses like leukemia and lymphoma. It is focused on treating the pain, symptoms, and stress of the illness, with the goal of improving quality of life for you and for your family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists, who work together with your other doctors to give you an added layer of support. It is available at the same time as all your other treatments.
Palliative care doctors are experts in complex symptom management and will help you maintain your quality of life every step of the way. Leukemia and lymphoma can make you feel very tired, produce cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal, and can give you bleeding, fevers, night sweats, frequent infections and unexplained weight loss. And unfortunately, treatment for acute leukemia and lymphoma is hard on the body too. Strong chemotherapy drugs and sometimes radiation are needed to kill the cancer cells. You can expect nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and aches. Depression and anxiety are also common. Your palliative care team will assess and treat you for all these symptoms. This will not only help you feel better, but can also improve your overall medical condition and help you keep up with your treatment plan.
Palliative care not only helps to treat your pain and symptoms. Your palliative care team will also help you understand complex medical information about your illness and your treatment choices. They will take the time to understand what is important to you, so they can match your treatment options to your personal needs and goals. This can be especially important if you are have to make urgent decisions about your care. Working together with your other specialists, your palliative care team can help you find your way through the maze of medical information so that you can get the care that you want. They will also help you make plans for what the future may hold, and to talk to your family about your decisions.
For children with leukemia, parents and families need even more support. Your child will need a lot of help to understand what is happening and why. The social worker on your palliative care team will take all the time that is needed to help you talk to your child about their illness and what they can expect from their treatments. The team will do everything they can to give your child normalcy, in spite of their illness.
If you, or someone you love, is facing leukemia or lymphoma, ask your doctor for a referral to palliative care. The earlier the better. You can receive palliative care in most hospitals, and depending on your area, in outpatient clinics or with home visits. Your palliative care team will take this journey with you step by step.