You might feel low, distressed or worried while recovering from a stem cell transplant. It’s not surprising – you’ve been dealing with a massive event in your life. These feelings can hang around at first; they get better with time for most people, although some find they need some help along the way.
There are some signs that might mean you need more support. Let your transplant team or GP know if during the last month you’ve often been bothered by:
They’ll make sure you get the support that’s right for you. Find out more about where to get help.
‘I am not quite the same person I used to be. This was a bit of a problem at first. Because I looked OK, everyone assumed I was back to normal.’
Julie had a transplant in 2009
Share what you’re thinking – find someone you can talk to. It could be a friend, or someone trained to listen: your GP, specialist nurse, transplant team, psycho-oncology team, or a counsellor.
Connecting with others who’ve been through transplant can improve how you feel in yourself:
‘The biggest surprise for me was that talking to people really helped. I don’t normally sit around talking and I had never had therapy in my life – I thought it was all “huggy-huggy” and not really a typical bloke thing to do!’
Read Peter’s blog about finding a positive outlook after transplant.
Take time out to look after yourself. When you feel up to it, learn some techniques to manage stress and to relax – like meditation, breathing exercises or massage. Ask your transplant team about local services, or ask at your hospital cancer support centre. You might have a Maggies or Macmillan Cancer Support Centre nearby.
Try setting yourself goals and things look to forward to, like having one night out a week, or walking for 20 minutes each day. Take things slowly, especially when you’re first recovering.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – even little achievements can give you a boost!
‘If you’ve cut yourself off from people or you’re not doing anything you enjoy anymore, try to change this. Make an effort to engage with others, and with things you normally enjoy.’
Read our blog with Phil, a counsellor:
How you feel physically can have an impact on how you feel emotionally. It may have a positive impact on your mood if you:
If dealing with the physical effects of your transplant is getting you down, then check in with your transplant team. They may be able to prescribe treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms
‘It’s about finding the right balance. The other night I went to see a band at a venue that’s five minutes’ walk from where I live. So I’m still doing things I like, but just on a smaller scale.’
Pavlos had a transplant in 2010. Read about how photography helped him deal with anxiety.
When the time is right, taking on something different like a new activity, hobby or volunteering might help boost your mood. Find out more about getting involved with Anthony Nolan.
‘I’ve achieved a fair bit since my transplant - I turned 60, I do volunteering work in tennis and was at my son’s wedding nine months after my transplant.’
Nicky had a transplant in 2011. Read her story here.
There are many ways to get more psychological support if you need it. Talking to your specialist nurse, GP or another member of your transplant team might help. Or you might need to speak to a specialist who is trained in assessing and treating psychological problems.
Some transplant centres have psycho-oncology services, involving clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals. They’re specialists in providing support for people with cancer and their families. If this isn’t available in your hospital, ask your transplant team or GP to refer you to psychology or counselling.
You can get counselling support from Macmillan Cancer Support or Maggie’s which often have centres in hospital. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has information about counsellors in your area.
If you or someone you know needs urgent help, find out about accessing immediate services and support from Mind.
Information published: 10/10/16
Next review due: 10/10/19