Your twenties are your formative years. The time when you are learning who you really are, and what you enjoy, establishing new friendships, and discovering what you really want from your life. Experiencing all your twenties have to offer can be really fun, but it can also be challenging and emotionally exhausting; even without a long-term condition like CML. Navigating your twenties while living with CML will no doubt bring its very own challenges.
Living with CML might make you feel different from others your age, but the differences may not always be negative. Everyone’s experience is different, and for lots of people on treatment for CML, life seems to go on just as it did before.
CML may have a huge impact on your life in your twenties, or the impact might be fairly small. Here are a couple of areas where you might notice challenges as a twentysomething with a long-term condition, and some suggestions to help you manage them.
A lot of your twenties can revolve around your social life, with plenty of nights out partying, and you may feel unsure whether it’s safe for you to participate to the same extent as your friends. Parties come with drinking and late nights, which may impact how you feel the next day.
While there is not much evidence to suggest that drinking alcohol will negatively impact your TKI treatment1, it’s likely that your oncologist will recommend that you be responsible.
Fatigue is different from just being tired. The lack of energy can feel relentless, and no amount of sleep is able to fix that feeling when it arrives. While you probably won’t be able to get rid of your fatigue completely, there are a couple of strategies you can incorporate into your daily and weekly routine that might help in boosting your energy levels and making you feel a little better overall. We have an article HERE where you can read some more about how to deal with fatigue.
If you are living away from home for the first time you may feel overwhelmed, but use this as an opportunity to take ownership of your CML. You are now responsible for managing your medications and making sure you show up for your appointments. Taking on this responsibility now will help you in lots of areas of life in the future.
It’s really important that you keep taking your medications and following your healthcare team’s advice. If you’re used to someone else reminding you, you might want to look up apps for your mobile phone that can offer the same function.
Chances are, in your twenties you will be dating -maybe a lot, maybe a little- and your CML diagnosis may impact how and who you choose to date. You may find it difficult to find partners that you feel comfortable enough with to talk about your CML. It’s a personal thing and you might not want to tell a romantic partner about it until you are sure you can trust them.
Some CML medications may decrease your sex drive. This might lead to frustration for you if you are dating or in a relationship and you find that you just don’t want to have sex. If you are having difficulty with ‘traditional’ sex, remember there are lots of ways to achieve intimacy with a partner. You might just need to be a little creative! Try not to compare yourself and your experience to that of those around you; everyone’s experience is different, and with a little trial and error, you will find something that works for both you and your partner.
Some CML treatments may cause bloating, and that might make you feel less confident in your body. There is a big focus in your twenties on how you feel about your appearance and how you think others perceive you. Experiencing bloating and other bodily changes due to your treatment can cause your self-confidence to take a hit. You might feel shy, self-conscious, or just not really like your old self, and all of these feelings are valid and normal. While there is no single remedy for self-image issues caused by CML or its treatment, you may find that talking about how you feel with your partner, friends or healthcare professional can help make these feelings a little less burdensome.
Navigating life with a long-term condition can be isolating. It is helpful to talk about how you are feeling, but you may feel that your friends and family can’t really understand what you are going through. There are lots of places online where young adults with CML can come together and share their experiences in a safe space with people who really understand what it’s like to live with the condition. While everyone’s experience with CML will be different, interacting with other people who are going through something similar to you might help reduce feelings of isolation and help you feel a sense of support and community.2