Cure Leukaemia is an important blood cancer charity that enables patients to access potentially life-saving, ground breaking drugs and treatments.  Director, Kevin Jones, helped launch Cure Leukaemia back in 2003 and is still with the charity as secretary.  His daughter, Hannah Jones, is studying for a degree in Mental Health Nurse and will graduate next year.

We’d like to share with you a blog that Hannah wrote in which she examines what it is like for people when they are diagnosed with leukaemia, and the potential effects that such devastating news can have on health and wellbeing.

In the second part of the blog, she highlights the advantages of healthy exercise on mental health and wellbeing, including taking part in activities which can provide both physical and mental challenges.

“My name is Hannah Jones, I have known about the Cure Leukaemia charity since its early days due to a family connection. My Dad, Kevin, is current secretary for the charity. He became part of the charity as a colleague of his was diagnosed with leukaemia and, as a result, helped found the charity. My Dad has therefore been involved for many years, and so I have heard of the many amazing things they have accomplished.

I have had many years of experience working in mental health, both adults and children, and have seen the effects it has on an individual. I have also completed a degree in Psychology and am currently completing a degree in Mental Health Nursing and will finish and become a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 2019. Throughout my training I have learnt about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in all individuals and how you can look after this.

Hearing a Doctor say that you have leukaemia can be a daunting, confusing and overwhelming diagnosis to deal with; learning what this means for you, what you might have to go through, the treatment options, and how long you could be going through the treatment.

Not only are there all the physical symptoms that you must go through but being given a diagnosis such as this can have a profound impact on your mental health too. Research has found, in a sample of individuals diagnosed with acute leukaemia, that depression is present in 40% of cases. It has also been shown that the frequency increases over time, and that the likelihood of depression increases as the individuals spend more time in treatment. This is because hospitalisation, as well as treatment, can greatly impact psychological wellbeing.

Along with depression, individuals have described feeling powerlessness, shock, stress, anxiety/fear, anger and guilt due to their diagnosis. Shock is often the first reaction when given a diagnosis that can be life threatening, such as leukaemia. This shock can make it hard for you to believe what is happening, express your emotions, and take in all the information you are being given.

Stress is also a very common emotional reaction. The illness itself can cause you stress, through the physical and emotional effects, but also through any financial issues you may develop. Stress could also be caused through spending substantial amounts of your time in hospital, going through treatment, having to change your lifestyle, not being able to do everything you used to, establishing trust with your healthcare team, and the sheer amount of information presented to you.

Many individuals also experience anxiety through the fear that is brought on by their diagnosis. This fear is an overwhelming emotion that can lead to anxiety around your experience before, during, and after possible hospitalisation and treatment. The anxieties are often focussed on not knowing what might happen next, whether the treatments will work, the wellbeing of your family, discomfort and pain, what the future holds, and fear of dying.

The anger and guilt that can also be felt due to being given a diagnosis can influence your mental health and wellbeing. Many can feel angry that they have been given this diagnosis and others feel guilty for becoming a burden to their friends and families due to their illness.

When faced with a diagnosis of leukaemia, there are some things you can do to ensure your mental health and wellbeing are looked after. It has been found that fighting spirit qualities are found in patients who have a daily routine, view their illness as a challenge, want to fight their illness, and believe in getting better. When you are prepared to manage living with your illness, this contributes to a higher quality of life, and an overall reduction in the likelihood of suffering a decline in mental health wellbeing. A positive attitude towards your illness, the treatment options and your future are important to keep your mental wellbeing strong and to give you a better fighting chance with your diagnosis.”

The next big related challenge in which many people are taking part to raise money for Cure Leukaemia is Sunday’s Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run. Click HERE to support all those taking part and donate to Cure Leukaemia.

References

Albrecht, T. A. (2014). Physiologic and psychological symptoms experienced by adults with acute Leukaemia: An integrative literature review. Oncology Nursing Forum, 41(3), pp. 286-295.
O’Connor, M., Guilfoyle, A., Breen, L., Mukhardt, F., and Fisher, C. (2007). Relationships between quality of life, spiritual well-being, and psychological adjustment styles for people living with leukaemia: An exploratory study. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 10(6), pp. 631–647.