Battling Fatigue

by Brittany McNabb-WhatNext

Fatigue in people with cancer can be caused by common cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy and can be worsened by low blood counts, pain, and sleep problems. Fatigue from cancer can be different from everyday tiredness because no matter how much you rest, you may feel like you do not have the energy to do the things you want or need to do. Here are some ways that WhatNexters have battled their fatigue.

Fatigue

Ask for Specific Help
If you are too tired to do certain things in your routine, reach out to family and friends whom you trust and request they do specific tasks that will help you.

“Listen to your body and know that you have to set your expectations for what you can handle. If you have friends or relatives offering help, give them specific tasks to do for you. Ask one to bring dinners for the freezer, ask another to do your laundry etc. People want to help but do not know how, they like to be told exactly what they can do.” - Tracy

Track Your Fatigue
Some WhatNexters have been told by their doctor that it could help them both find patterns and causes of their fatigue if they keep track of it in a daily journal. You could write down when you have it, what it felt like, and what you did to rest. It may help to think of fatigue on a scale of 1-10 so when you talk to your doctor you can describe your fatigue in order for them to treat it the best they can.

One Task at a Time
You can pace yourself by taking one task at a time then waiting to see how you feel before moving on. You could also assign one thing to do each day of the week. For example, grocery shopping on Monday, vacuuming or cleaning on Tuesday, running miscellaneous errands on Wednesday, lunch with a friend on Thursday etc.

“I would do only one thing at a time. Like clean one bathroom one day, next day the other, next day laundry, next day dust furniture but that's all I did. Everything else just had to wait.” - CyndiLou

Try Not to Ignore Fatigue
WhatNexters have said that if they ignored their fatigue then it could get worse; they would allow themselves to rest or take a nap when they needed to.

“I have learned not to fight the fatigue but embrace it. When I get home from work, if I'm really tired, I'll take a nap. I do try to go to bed every night at 9 and wake up at 6 for work. On the weekends I don't set the alarm and whatever time I wake up, that's when I start my day.” - CarolLHRN

Walk
You may not have energy to do any serious exercising, but getting outside or getting moving in some way might help increase your overall energy level.

“I tried to walk a little bit outside, even if it was just up and down my driveway once or twice. The fresh air helped a little.” - SusanK

Find a Relaxing Hobby
Hobbies can be a good way to stay calm and distract yourself from stress and fatigue.

“What I found to be very relaxing is sewing, embroidery specifically. I found embroidery helped with my neuropathy too. My oncologist said it was a very good idea. I thought about what I liked to do and added that to my day.” - Marbleotis

Mind Exercises
Often WhatNexters experience worry over scans, treatment, or other fears so some have distracted their mind with reading, writing, or puzzles in order to relax their body.

“My mind seems to effect my fatigue level as much as my body. Reading and writing get my mind off my cancer, even when that is the subject of my writings. When I have had a productive day of writing my mind seems to be able to relax at night.” - steve70x7

Good Sleeping Conditions
WhatNexters say they do not underestimate the power of good sleep. Whatever will make you comfortable and relaxed at the end of the day, do those things to ensure a decent amount of sleep; many WhatNexters find that sticking to a consistent bedtime is helpful.

“I made sure I had good sleeping conditions. For me, that was a cool and dark room, no glowing lights, a consistent bedtime, less carbohydrate intake in the evening, and I did not exercise in the evening.” - workit

Be Patient as You Build Your Energy Level
It may take time and stamina to get to the energy level you want. WhatNexters remind themselves that they have been fighting a battle and therefore to be patient with themselves while they build their stamina from the ground up.

“I tried to be patient with myself - easier said than done. I found it helpful to set small goals and tasks for everyday. Then I knew I had accomplished something and built up my stamina to eventually get where I wanted.” - SpunkyS

For more information on managing cancer fatigue, you can visit the American Cancer Society’s page on 7 Ways to Manage Cancer Related Fatigue.

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