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How Can I Access Support During Treatment?

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Published on March 1, 2021

The Importance of Support During AML Treatment

In the sixth episode of a nine-part podcast series, Dr. Daniel Pollyea, MD, Clinical Director of Leukemia Services at the University of Colorado, discusses the importance of a support team during acute myeloid leukemia (AML) treatment. It is important to reach out to your medical team with any concerns you have, and it is equally important to communicate with your friends, family and loved ones to access help when it is needed.

Support for this series has been provided by AbbVie, Inc. and Genentech, Inc. Patient Power maintains complete editorial control and is solely responsible for program content.

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Transcript | How Can I Access Support During Treatment?

Dr. Pollyea: Hi, everybody. I'm Dr. Dan Pollyea of the University of Colorado, where I'm an Associate Professor of Medicine and the Clinical Director of Leukemia Services, and I spend a lot of time treating patients with AML. I wanted to talk a little bit about resources to rely on once you start a treatment regimen for your AML. It's really important to keep a number of different things in mind. First is that the treatment team who's administering the treatments, they are expecting certain side effects and complications to arise and there are also some side effects and complications that can arise that we don't usually expect or look for.

How Often Should I Communicate with My Care Team?

But the important principle of all of this is that there needs to be very close communication between yourself and your family and the treatment team, and so it's really important getting started with your team to understand, "Who do I call and what's the number?" Your treatment team will have a 24/7 resource available for you to connect with when some of these complications arise.

It's really, really important to not hold back, especially at the beginning, when you may not know what's normal and what's not normal, to just reach out and ask if you have any questions about the way you're feeling, whether that's expected or unexpected. Always have a very, very low bar to reach out because some things that you may not consider to be significant experiences can be the start of complications that can be mitigated or treated with early recognition.

Relying on Friends and Family for Support

The second thing is to really rely on, at this point in your life, this very difficult point in your life, is to not be afraid to rely on your friends and family. I see this a lot with my patients, many of whom have spent so much time helping other people, that when it's their turn to be in this position, sometimes they're hesitant to reach out and ask for help or seek help from their network of family and friends.

What I always encourage people, is to not be shy about this. The people around you almost always want to help, are looking for ways to help. Sometimes they're a little bit too shy to proactively ask for help, and so reaching out to ask for help with rides or keeping you company, all of these different things. Making meals, helping take care of your family, are all appropriate and necessary considerations during this very, very difficult time. Like I said, almost everybody, spent time in their lives helping others, and so this is your time to ask for help and to not be shy about it.

What Other Support Resources Are Available?

Also, mental health professionals are an important part of any treatment team, and so it's often standard for a person who's been diagnosed with this very overwhelming diagnosis to meet with a psychologist or a therapist that is a part of the treatment team. And if this isn't standard, but you think that it would be helpful, then raising that issue and asking about that is a really, really important concept as well, so don't be afraid to use that resource. It's a really, really important one during this very difficult time and one that you would have access to in most situations when you're starting treatment.

These mental health professionals like psychologists or therapists are experts at dealing with people such as yourself under these extraordinary circumstances, in particular, how to just cope with the diagnosis and how to use healthy coping strategies. Also, these are resources for your family as well that may also be having difficulty with respect to mental health issues around this diagnosis and the changes that it will have on your family, and so this is something that is, as I said, fairly routine and is something that a person can certainly help a lot with.

A lot of people struggle with mental health issues before being diagnosed with a condition such as this and this can really compound those mental health issues, so having a mental health professional, a therapist, or a psychologist to discuss the impact of this diagnosis on previous mental health issues, I think, is really critical to getting through this difficult process.

Finally, the treatment team likely has resources in the manner of social workers and others who can also help marshal some of these important resources, and so it's always important to ask about that, particularly and specifically if there's a social worker on the team that one can talk to. All of those are really, really important concepts to keep in mind during this admittedly very overwhelming period, but you will not be able to successfully get through this alone. You will need help and that's okay.