8 ways to nurture your body, mind and spirit

Julie Visner shares some of the ways she stays positive while managing her multiple myeloma.

1. Be open with others.

“I’ve found that other people are more scared of cancer than you are,” says Julie. “The disease changed me physically and emotionally, so I can’t hide it.”

2. Keep working if you can.

“Working reminds me that I’m not just Julie the cancer patient; I’m a college counselor,” she says. “Even though my hours are reduced, working makes me feel like I still have a purpose and can make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s great to have a purpose beyond surviving cancer.” You’ll also benefit from the social support of colleagues.

3. Come up with a way to avoid handshakes.

“It’s so important to protect yourself from germs,” says Julie. “If someone extends a hand, I quickly say, ‘air shakes, air hugs! I have cancer and a terribly compromised immune system.' People back off immediately.”

4. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

“It’s okay to say no to people who want to visit you if you don’t feel well or if they’ve been around someone who is sick,” says Julie. “I tell people to text or e-mail me instead.” The same goes for meals. “I don’t want people to bring me meals, because I don’t know what the ingredients are and my stomach is sensitive as a result of the treatments,” she says. “Cancer patients have to be honest and let people know how they can help.”

5. Do the things you love.

Julie is passionate about rescuing animals and cares for many dogs, cats, horses and more. “My animals provide comfort,” says Julie. “They bring me happiness. They make me laugh and smile and help me forget about cancer.” Participating in activities you enjoy can help lower your blood pressure and stress hormone levels and reduce your risk of depression, according to the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

6. Make a “bucket list.”

“When I learned the cancer was back with a vengeance, I decided to make a bucket list,” says Julie. “I realized ‘now’ is of the essence and I should no longer put things off. My first car was a 1972 Volkswagen bug, and I always thought it would be super groovy to find a replica of my beloved baby blue bug, so I bought one and drove myself to chemo treatments in it.

“Some people are afraid to make a bucket list, but you have to—even if it’s something small like going out for ice cream with your best friends. Make a plan, but know you might have to cancel it if you don’t feel well.”

7. Partner with your doctor.

“Speak up and tell your doctor about any side effects from medications,” says Julie. “And bring someone to your appointments because it’s easy to miss things the doctor says.” Julie researches the latest medications on sites like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation; International Myeloma Foundation; and The Myeloma Beacon and takes printouts of her findings to her doctor. “If I’m having serious side effects, I might ask, ‘Can I try a lower dose of this medication?’ ” she says.

8. Find support online.

Julie writes a blog and reads other people’s blogs, as well. “It’s been a lifesaver,” she says. “It is so cathartic to connect with others. I’ve found friends from as far away as South Africa and have learned about different types of treatments and how other people handle side effects.”

Read Julie's story here

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