For most patients with myeloma, the condition responds well to initial treatment. Unfortunately, it is virtually certain that myeloma will return. With the possible exception of a small number of patients who can receive a donor transplant and have long term survival of greater than 15 years, myeloma is not generally considered curable. Whichever type of myeloma you have, your consultant is the best person to ask about your outlook.
There is no evidence that any special diet or exercise programmes will improve your health or how you respond to treatment. You are likely to find that you feel fitter and healthier if you follow the general advice on good diet and healthy eating and living from your hospital or GP.
Because the paraprotein or calcium in blood can damage your kidneys it is very important to drink plenty of fluids. You are advised to drink at least 3 litres (about 5 pints) of fluid in total every day.
One important change you should make is to take greater care against infection, including from food. Because of your illness, your body is less able to destroy germs and to resist infection than previously. This means that you should be particularly careful about food ‘use by’ dates, for example, and about things like keeping cooked and raw meat separate in the fridge.
Although there are no exercise programmes which will affect your disease or how it responds to treatment, staying active may help to reduce the impact of fatigue. Many patients with myeloma are fatigued and are often unsure whether it is better to rest or to remain active. It has been clearly shown that being as active as you can comfortably manage is more likely to help. If you do little or nothing, your ability to exercise will reduce and you will be even more tired. This does not mean that you should exhaust yourself, but rather do as much as feels comfortable.
Many patients with chronic conditions use complementary therapies. There is an important difference between alternative therapies,
which are offered in place of medical treatment, and complementary therapies, which are used alongside standard treatment. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research recommends that you should not use any alternative therapies in place of proven medical care. There is a booklet available from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research on complementary and alternative therapies.
Many complementary therapies are said to stimulate the immune system. You should bear in mind that in myeloma, it is cells of the immune system which have become abnormal. If you are considering a treatment which is described as stimulating the immune system, there is at least a possibility that it could make the condition worse. You should discuss any such treatment with your healthcare team before deciding.
Also, remedies such as herbal preparations may be perfectly safe for a healthy person but, if you are on treatment, they may be dangerous when combined with your chemotherapy. If you are considering acupuncture it is advisable to seek a medically qualified acupuncturist who is likely to follow safe practices to avoid infection. Always make sure that your healthcare team is aware of any complementary treatments you are using or are thinking of using. They may advise you to avoid certain forms of therapy, as there may be specific risks because of your illness or the treatment you are receiving. In other cases they may advise you to take specific precautions.