CLL Support Association

Stressing about stress!

Hi friends,

I'm not sure there is an answer as such to my query but would love to hear your thoughts:

I know it's been said that stress can be a factor in cancers (including ours?) and it's not easy to measure, but do you think it can make our disease progress quicker?

I was diagnosed in Nov 2014 with lymphocytes at 5.3. Levels stayed in or around 7-8 until last May. During that 18 months I changed my diet, did lots of exercise and worked less hours. I was not happy in my job though so I changed jobs last May.

Maybe this is a coincidence but since last July (after I changed jobs) my lymphocytes have increased at a quicker rate than before; they went up to 9 in July, 12 in November and now 15 this week. In addition, my white cell count is now higher than normal for the first time - it was 16 in November and now 19.5.

I am happier in my new company as the people are nice but it is a demanding job. I am lucky to only work 3 days a week. I work long hours on those 3 days and get home late. I do find it tricky juggling work and home life, even though I work part-time; my husband works 6 days a week and travels a lot so I look after our little boys and the house etc when I'm not in my outside-the-home job.

I worked far less hours in my old job but I'd had enough of the company so am glad I moved - but I do sometimes wonder if the stress of the new job and/or having less free time could be contributing to my higher lymphocyte and white cell levels. I also have low ferritin levels now, not sure if that's related? (My GP did full bloods this week as she needed to check my thyroid levels - I'm not due back to haematologist till April).

Anyway I know it's impossible to prove a link but would be grateful to hear thoughts from you lovely people.

Also I don't know what I would change. I have a well-paid, part time job and can't afford to give up work entirely even if I did think it was the right thing to do. Possibly I could move to a lower paid job but if I did that and the lymphocytes continued to climb I'd probably wonder why I threw away the good money I could've earned for our sons education!

I should say I know it's self indulgent of me being worried when my levels are low and I feel fine (other than tired, no other symptoms) so I hope I'm not offending anyone as I know people are going through much tougher times than me. But I also know that you guys are the ones I can turn to when I'm having a worried day, so thanks in advance for reading this.

Rant over!!

Firefly x

10 Replies

Rant away Firefly,you won't offend for feeling pretty much the same as everyone else.

Stay well




Hi Firefly,

I'm sure it's always better for us to avoid stress if we can, but there's no guarantee that a relaxed lifestyle will cure all our ills...

When I took early retirement (aged 59) from a job I enjoyed but it had its stresses, my CLL started to get worse. I think that was sheer co-incidence though.

One summer when we had a brilliant relaxing holiday and I came home feeling better than I'd done for a long time, and was sure my ALC would have dropped, I was wrong... My ALC had started on a much steeper climb upwards...

None of this proves anything - just sharing my own experiences. CLL is so unpredictable... A lot is probably due to genetic things going on, that we can't do much about.

If stress is causing our blood pressure to rise, then that's not good though. It can damage the kidneys as well as other things. When it's time for treatment, we need our kidneys...

I've heard that short, sharp stressful times, with relaxed times in between, are much less damaging to the body than prolonged, never-going-away stress. Some stresses can be envigorating, stimulating, good for us. Some can be toxic and draining...

Just my few thoughts on the subject...

Time I went to bed... A good night's sleep is definitely good for us.. a great antidote to stress..

Best wishes,


P.S. A good rant can sometimes relieve our stress too. :-)


I got my diagnosis three weeks after my business was audited. What are the chances of that? Stress, of course. Just saying.


though the doctors didn't tell me until Aug 2015, I had the beginnings of CLL the first blood test after my son died...I believe the emotional tramma caused my CLL.


Good Morning Firefly. We have a blood cancer that makes us more susceptible to infections and how those infections affect us in intensity and recovery time. Think of those things that without that affect everyone else's immune system; fatigue, stress, cold and flu season, winter, dampness and the furnace/AC blowing more. My counts usually go up from summer to winter because of the seasonal changes, the furnace and the increase in colds/flus around me. So, just sayin' it might just be the time of the year for you as well. Continue to monitor and consult with your doc, but also just breathe and relax. There has never been a studied that came to the conclusion that stress adds time to a person's life but we all know that it will take not only time away, but also affect the quality of our time left. As the saying goes, "Keep Calm I have CLL."


Maybe you should concentrate on the QoL on the days when you're NOT working? I've noticed people who have high stress jobs always seem to get ill at the w/ends and holidays when they stop working.

Unless your ALC is doubling rapidly there's not a lot to worry about.


Hi Firefly

I have a moment and it's not a nice day there are many things I should be doing and when I do nothing I get stressed, time waits for no man, and when I set about a task I get stressed if it does not go as I want it to go.--- Does this ring a bell?

Well, I'm seventy, retired due to my diagnosis believing that the stress I have lived with all my life has caused my problem and therefore the subject that you pose is of considerable interest and one that I have tried to study in the light of my diagnosis in trying to find the reason and I'm sure we have all tried to work out why me.

It all started when I was very young, less than ten, at school and after, I was very competative and played a lot of different sports at a high level, county, country and above and like a lot of people needing to find that edge resorted to what can be descibed as a limited amout of OCD, as it is now called but ritual as it was. People like Beckham, Nadal have fessed up to this sort of thing but I am sure there are many others that do the same, it helps with the stress.

And this continued and does still today. I was involved in a family business designing ports and harbours and building cranes and other equipment on an international basis employing five hundred people and my job was dealing with all financial, auditing and consulting aspects. So when I was diagnosed I immediately thought it was stress related and decided to sell my interest and go about solving the problem as my consultant had told me initially that I could have six months or thirty years in answer to the usual question " How much time have I got Doc?"

Like everbody else it was a shock so I set about finding what I could by research and asking lots of questions but there was very little definitive information to guide me on a path to slow down the progression of rising levels. I decided to try diet, no alcohol, even holidays. First of all with levels slowing I thought diet was the answer then no alcohol worked after a week in Cassis, South of France, my levels had dropped. But everything I tried that initially worked proved to not in the end. I asked my brother who lives in in the Far East if he could speak to the locals and he came back with an Indonesian woman who reduced a WBC from two hundred to normal in six months by drinking Red Palm Oil so off I went to get my cure and reported it to my consultant, he said if it worked we could both make money out of it but six months later after enduring this foul stuff on a daily basis, nothing. I pondered why my brother who has a lot more stress than me running an airline does not have my problem.

So the long and the short of it is that I proved nothing and I do not think that stress has anything to do with it but I will say that my mother, whom I take after, had a similar problem, my elder brother takes after my father, so it might be inherited to some degree.

Perhaps the best way to deal with coming to terms with a diagnosis of CLL is to think like they did in the war, " I'm going to die but if I come back it's a bonus". My concerns are not my own health issues but my dependants if I die, my wife has been ill for five years and I am her carer.


Good question and one to which we would all like the answer. However, there are so many stressful situations in life over which we have no control. For instance, taking on a less stressful job is only good if that doesn't create money worries and more stress. I have had a very stressful life for many years(still work a seven day week, 60+ hours) and am convinced that a weak, tired body is unable to fight as a healthy one would. However, nothing could have been changed so I try not to think about the 'what ifs'. Hard sometimes :-)


Once you know you have something like CLL I'm not sure you can avoid stress. Life in general brings it anyway, whether it's family or job, but when you add in something like this disease your stress levels must rise, because even people with low counts (as I am as well) will worry about how to keep levels low or at least keep them rising at as slow a rate as possible, so you can put any potential treatment off for as long as possible & the affects on your family down to an absolute minimum.

How to deal with it is the issue & I certainly think exercise helps & maybe finding something like a hobby for when you aren't working, if family commitments allow, although even this can bring problems. I find myself not wanting to put myself into situations where I might get an infection that turns a fairly slow progressing condition to something more aggressive.

I haven't tried it, but I do wonder whether something like meditation or yoga might be a help in distressing, although I'm more into watching a good film or TV series as a means of escapism myself.


Dear Firefly,

I am in the camp that believes that stress can cause disease. Hard to measure and prove due to the nature of stress but when I was highly stressed my CLL numbers were far worse. Now that stress is down my numbers are better. Scientific? Perhaps not but our minds and body are connected.

Nothing like a good rant to relieve stress! :)



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