Fatigue and cancer treatment: How do you cope?

Posted by Nancy, Alumna Mentor @1nan, Sep 20, 2019

It seems that fatigue has affected all aspects of life in the years I have had treatment for multiple myeloma. (Into 4th year.)The cancer causes fatigue, and all treatments list fatigue as most common side effect. My greatest challenge has been to manage time so fatigue doesn't rule every day, and I wonder how others deal with it. My greatest strategy comes from recognizing that there is major difference between physical and mental fatigue. I have activities that are doable when physical fatigue limits what I do, like writing, mind games, or reading. But having physical energy doesn't always mean I feel like quilting, baking, etc. I just feel lazy!

How do you deal with your fatigue so you stay productive in a good way that keeps you happy?

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I would say that “feeling lazy” is a very accurate description for myself as well. I do seem to do better when I get out of the house and away from the comforts of home. I tend to feel like I need a lap the middle of the day as well as feeling the need to head to bed early at night.

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@1kjewels

I would say that “feeling lazy” is a very accurate description for myself as well. I do seem to do better when I get out of the house and away from the comforts of home. I tend to feel like I need a lap the middle of the day as well as feeling the need to head to bed early at night.

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Hi@1nan and @1kjewels– I wrote a blog post on just this subject that I'd love to share with you. https://my20yearscancer.com/chemotherapy-cocktail/
I always thought of the fatigue I felt (2008) as draining my life force, an emptying of energy. I lost quite a bit of weight and I am a petite person so my fatigue along with my weight loss was a double whammy. I did not exercise and I should have tried to do at least some, even walks, slow turtle like strolls.
I have stage IV a multifocal adenocarcinoma of the lung. I do get very tired but I find that the more that I do exercise the more energy I have. I know that this sounds contradictory but it's true. I'm slower and a bit more cautious, but I love being out doors. I also eat 4 or 5 small meals a day so that I am not over eating and I keep my fats to healthy ones. Regular physical activity increases the blood flow to your body and improves your cardiovascular health and fitness. This will allow more blood and oxygen to get to the body providing energy to do work. … Exercise is a great way to improve energy levels.
https://www.sharecare.com/health/energy-boosters/how-does-exercise-improve-energy
Once my energy level is up I feel more hopeful and positive about my life. Do you ever feel like this?

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@1nan. It’s so true that exercise brings energy. Not crazy, overdone exercise, but simple walking. If I feel really tired, I get out and walk. My brain wakes up even though my body is very tired. I have really learned to pace myself with frequent breaks.

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@becsbuddy

@1nan. It’s so true that exercise brings energy. Not crazy, overdone exercise, but simple walking. If I feel really tired, I get out and walk. My brain wakes up even though my body is very tired. I have really learned to pace myself with frequent breaks.

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@merpreb @kjewels @becsbuddy
Thank you all. Exercise in any form does help. What I neglected to mention is that my spine is so damaged that pain and bone condition limit what that exercise looks like, but I can get pretty creative! As pushups on the counter while coffee reheats yet one more time in the microwave! Anemia is also a gift of myeloma. Sometimes I make a simple meal or special dessert and send an invitation. Who has learned that pushing yourself at home or to go out where you have friends and/or family will provide mental, emotional and physical good? (Especially with lots of silly conversation!)

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I have to deal with fatigue on a daily basis, too. I've accepted the fact that on most days I have to take a long nap. You do learn to plan for the fatigue. Last summer, my wife and I took an extended camping trip to the west coast (6 weeks). As we made plans, we made sure that our traveling days were not too long. And we usually made sure we stayed at each campground for at least 2 nights. That way, I had time to rest up if I needed it. @1nan , I never thought about mental fatigue before. But now that you mention it, I agree that it is real. Sometimes you need to shut down your mind and just do nothing. A couple of things that keep me going are singing old hymns at the retirement/nursing homes in our area and volunteering at our local hospital. I tell people that I've been a patient in just about every department, so I know my way around. During my chemo, I was there so often I asked if I could just buy a membership.

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@1nan

@merpreb @kjewels @becsbuddy
Thank you all. Exercise in any form does help. What I neglected to mention is that my spine is so damaged that pain and bone condition limit what that exercise looks like, but I can get pretty creative! As pushups on the counter while coffee reheats yet one more time in the microwave! Anemia is also a gift of myeloma. Sometimes I make a simple meal or special dessert and send an invitation. Who has learned that pushing yourself at home or to go out where you have friends and/or family will provide mental, emotional and physical good? (Especially with lots of silly conversation!)

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@1nan – Nan it's all good, all good! You are a superb example of doing everything that you can despite your painful limitations. Being active, as much as possible lifts the spirit which lifts the mind and body. Everything is connected. Can you tell me more of the exercises that you can do, or physical activities?

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@merpreb Sometimes I make it up as I go along. But main restrictions have to do with weight lifting limits, and to not "twist" when bending. I also say "no" to offers of help when it refers to something I can do myself. ( Do you hear that child saying she can do it herself? 😁) When I drop something, I squat to pick it up, then squat one or two more times. Anything to keep legs strong. "Sit/stand" repetitions are good. I stay aware of strengthening abs in all opportunities. Slow deep breaths helps with pain management. I don't use light weights as much as would be good. Most of these things do not do a lot for stamina, but I'll get to that down the road. Bet you do a lot without recognizing how good it is for you, Merry. What do you think? Nancy

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@marvinjsturing

I have to deal with fatigue on a daily basis, too. I've accepted the fact that on most days I have to take a long nap. You do learn to plan for the fatigue. Last summer, my wife and I took an extended camping trip to the west coast (6 weeks). As we made plans, we made sure that our traveling days were not too long. And we usually made sure we stayed at each campground for at least 2 nights. That way, I had time to rest up if I needed it. @1nan , I never thought about mental fatigue before. But now that you mention it, I agree that it is real. Sometimes you need to shut down your mind and just do nothing. A couple of things that keep me going are singing old hymns at the retirement/nursing homes in our area and volunteering at our local hospital. I tell people that I've been a patient in just about every department, so I know my way around. During my chemo, I was there so often I asked if I could just buy a membership.

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@marvinjsturing Glad the mental fatigue idea is helpful, Marvin. The past two years I saw many days with plenty of mental energy, little to no physical energy. I used that opportunity to finish 5 books for my family, self publish for them and not sales and distribution. Accepting that activities take longer because of breaks and shorter "work" periods makes it all good. At 78, not a darn thing wrong with slowing down after a lifetime being an energizer bunny! 😝 You seem to have a handle on taking care of yourself while still giving to others. And your sense of humor shines through! Are you still feeling fulfilled? What works best for you? Nancy

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@1nan

@marvinjsturing Glad the mental fatigue idea is helpful, Marvin. The past two years I saw many days with plenty of mental energy, little to no physical energy. I used that opportunity to finish 5 books for my family, self publish for them and not sales and distribution. Accepting that activities take longer because of breaks and shorter "work" periods makes it all good. At 78, not a darn thing wrong with slowing down after a lifetime being an energizer bunny! 😝 You seem to have a handle on taking care of yourself while still giving to others. And your sense of humor shines through! Are you still feeling fulfilled? What works best for you? Nancy

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@1nan I'm a 5 year survivor of pancreatic cancer so every day of life is a miracle and a gift. My wife and I go out camping as often as possible. We also love going to visit the grandkids. Last week we camped just a few blocks from the grandkids. They came out to the campground several times. It was great…well, except for the tornadoes on Tuesday night and the thunderstorms on Wednesday night. Oh, and at 3:30 AM on Friday when the ranger came and said we had to leave because the campground was flooding. Other than that we had a great time!

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@marvinjsturing You are truly blessed with that cancer history. Stay well! And keep that sense of humor.
We did a lot of RV travel, once were told the tsunami watning signs at the campground were serious. They told us if we heard the sirens we had 10 minutes to unhook and get to the cemetery up above. :0) Managed to sleep well anyway!
Nancy

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