Staying social

Sometimes your CML might mean that you are not able to do the things you used to do before. The condition itself and the medicine you’re taking can make you feel more tired than usual, or unwell in other ways.1 Living with a long-term condition like CML can also affect your mood and confidence levels, which may lower your motivation to socialise. The balance of activities in your life might slip, which can be a vicious cycle.2

But it’s important to find ways to enjoy yourself and spend time with friends. Doing fun, uplifting things can take the focus off the CML, ease stress and help you feel more optimistic.

Try thinking about what you value about your regular social activities, and then think about ways you can adapt the activity but still get the thing that you value. Ask yourself this series of questions:2

  • What social activity do I like?
  • What do I value about doing it?
  • What’s stopping me?
  • How could I adapt the activity to continue to get value out of it?

For example:

  • What social activity do I like?
    Going to a restaurant with my friends
  • What do I value about doing it?
    Catching up on gossip!
  • What’s stopping me?
    I feel so tired in the evening I can’t face going out
  • How could I adapt the activity to continue to get value out of it?
    Suggest meeting up with my friends for lunch at the weekend instead

Here are some suggestions for adapting your activities:

  • Pace yourself. If you struggle with feeling tired, allow plenty of time to rest between social activities. Don’t arrange too many outings too close together. Have a rest before you go out and consider making outings shorter – for example, join your friends at a party for an hour or two rather than staying the whole evening.
  • Invite friends over to you. Sometimes this is less tiring than going out. You could ask them over for a cup of tea if preparing a full meal is too tiring. Or ask someone to come over early and help you cook, suggest everyone brings a dish, or order a takeaway.
  • Make the most of times you have more energy. If you notice you’re more energetic in the mornings and tend to get tired early in the evening, plan activities around this.
  • Adapt your usual activities. If you usually play sport with friends at the weekend, but now sometimes feel too tired, don’t completely avoid going out. Instead, see if friends will go for a walk, swim or short cycle with you.
  • Try to avoid alcohol. For some people, socialising can involve drinking alcohol. But using alcohol to cope can lower your mood and make you feel more tired.3 Find different things to do with friends, such as going to the cinema, a comedy night or the theatre.
  • Change plans if you need to. Having a long-term condition like CML can be unpredictable. Give yourself permission to cancel or postpone arrangements if you need to. But try to strike a balance between resting and going out. Sometimes, spending time with friends can lift your mood and boost your energy, and it can be worth making the effort.

Talk to your friends

Others may not understand how CML affects you. You might look and seem well, and may still be working. So they may think you’re able to continue with all your usual activities, which can be frustrating and put pressure on you. Or you may find the opposite is true, and friends stop inviting you out because they think you won’t feel well enough. They may not want to ask you how you’re feeling because they’re worried about upsetting you. This can leave you feeling lonely and left out. The best way to avoid both these situations is to be honest with your friends. You could think about letting them know that:

  • You feel different from day to day and you’d always like to know about social arrangements so you can decide whether you’re able to join in
  • Sometimes you feel tired so you might need to do quieter activities
  • Your friends are important to you and you really want to spend time with them – but you may sometimes need to change plans at the last minute
  • You’re always happy to talk about how you’re feeling, emotionally and physically. You could think about showing them some information about CML, such as this section on the CML Support website
  1. Hochhaus A, Saussele S, Rosti G, Mahon F-X, Janssen JJWM, Hjorth-Hansen H, et al. (2017) Chronic myeloid leukaemia: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up†. Annals of Oncology, Jul 1;28(suppl_4):iv41–51.
  2. Chellingsworth M. (2016) Behavioural Activation planning tips - my values worksheet. Accessed May 2018.

  3. Armeli S, O’Hara RE, Ehrenberg E, Sullivan TP, Tennen H. (2014) Episode-Specific Drinking-to-Cope Motivation, Daily Mood, and Fatigue-Related Symptoms among College Students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs, 75:766–74.