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?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Cancer: Managing Symptoms Support Group.

@1nan

@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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@1nan – Believe it or not I have no pain so far with multifocal adenocarcinoma of the lungs. My pain is more emotional so being able to write and mentor for Connect helps me immensely. I also write a blog. Relieving stress is a benefit because stress is a big cause of loss of energy and stamina. I also need to increase my stamina and you are right, lifting weights are not enough, but are necessary for stronger muscles and bones. To increase stamina at home would need a more intense exercises. Increase speed, eliminate times in between sets. I walk up and down the steps in my house more often and I'm about to start riding my bike again now that the humidity is gone, or almost gone. Walking, biking, swimming or anything that will make your heart beat faster.
If you're out of shape and need a quick way to increase your stamina, make these five exercises part of your regular fitness schedule.

Stair climbing. Stair climbing can really help with your stamina. …
High-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts are really tough. …
Lifting. …
Cycling. …
Swimming.
Of course anyone who wants to do these and has limitations should make sure that they can do these without injuring themselves. There are tons of videos on you tube and a doctor's ok would be good, or a trainer.
Everything needs to be eased into, don't you agree? Does anyone have other suggestions?

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@merpreb

@1nan – Believe it or not I have no pain so far with multifocal adenocarcinoma of the lungs. My pain is more emotional so being able to write and mentor for Connect helps me immensely. I also write a blog. Relieving stress is a benefit because stress is a big cause of loss of energy and stamina. I also need to increase my stamina and you are right, lifting weights are not enough, but are necessary for stronger muscles and bones. To increase stamina at home would need a more intense exercises. Increase speed, eliminate times in between sets. I walk up and down the steps in my house more often and I'm about to start riding my bike again now that the humidity is gone, or almost gone. Walking, biking, swimming or anything that will make your heart beat faster.
If you're out of shape and need a quick way to increase your stamina, make these five exercises part of your regular fitness schedule.

Stair climbing. Stair climbing can really help with your stamina. …
High-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts are really tough. …
Lifting. …
Cycling. …
Swimming.
Of course anyone who wants to do these and has limitations should make sure that they can do these without injuring themselves. There are tons of videos on you tube and a doctor's ok would be good, or a trainer.
Everything needs to be eased into, don't you agree? Does anyone have other suggestions?

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In June 2016 I was still working out at a gym. 1-1/2 hours 3 days a week, had been on trainer designed progressive program for months, then Neuro Surgeon said no more gym, and proceeded to add to his list. Even put pulling weeds on the list! (Yes, a favorite.) Thats when I started making my can do list, on my way home. At this point, bone condition is so poor, even on all bone strengthening drugs and IVs, that last neck fusion has pulled loose, spine shifted causing additional damage. Collapsed lumbar spine with crushed nerves is off the table.Thursday I have appointment to see what options are possible. He was named best on the east coast, with zero infection rate, so no need to go elsewhere. Have never felt fear since 2004 myeloma diagnosis, no need to start now. Just remind myself that God's got this and it doesn't get better than that! Great to have no anxiety, no depression. Body has stress but my mind doesn't. Some might call that denial, I know it is faith. Though I can't use your suggestions for now, you have probably helped many others with your wonderful post. Meanwhile, I am following weather predictions to decide which of 2 dresses to wear to outdoor wedding Saturday. Hey, it's a big decision, right? 😀
Thanks again. Nancy

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I am currently recovering from 2 emergency surgeries on spinal cord and cervical and thoracic spine. Please know all that efforts to keep legs and abdomen strong have been huge assets in this recent adventure. Anything we do to help ourselves is not wasted. When I was able to stand the night after surgery, the amazed nurse asked how I did that. "Patients ALWAYS need assistance." And, yes, that culprit fatigue doesn't miraculously disappear. But having weapons to move forward is empowering. Many helpful ideas have been posted above. Something for everyone! Not quite a candy store, but close. 😀 Thank you everyone. Embrace your strengths. Nancy

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Hi Nancy.

Having had breast cancer and colon cancer in the space of 18 months, I'm extremely familiar with fatigue 🙄😏. Re exercise, I find swimming very therapeutic, mentally and physically; also a walk, even if it's only 10 minutes away from my home and back again. I've also found that sticking to a routine, going to bed at the same time every night, getting up at the same time every morning, having a nap for the same length of time at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day. When I do a physical activity, e.g. housework, I do it when my energy level is good (for me, it's morning), as I find that my energy level decreases as the day progresses so that I'm whacked by 5 pm ☹️! Hope these suggestions help.

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@deirdrebrownw

Hi Nancy.

Having had breast cancer and colon cancer in the space of 18 months, I'm extremely familiar with fatigue 🙄😏. Re exercise, I find swimming very therapeutic, mentally and physically; also a walk, even if it's only 10 minutes away from my home and back again. I've also found that sticking to a routine, going to bed at the same time every night, getting up at the same time every morning, having a nap for the same length of time at the same time every day, eating at the same time every day. When I do a physical activity, e.g. housework, I do it when my energy level is good (for me, it's morning), as I find that my energy level decreases as the day progresses so that I'm whacked by 5 pm ☹️! Hope these suggestions help.

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@deirdrebrownw Your post should help lots of people who are trying to cope with fatigue! Just following a routine must really make a difference. That’s what I try to do. Some questions for you: does a nap interfere with nighttime sleeping? How do you plan for big things, like grocery shopping and going out in the evening? It sometimes seems like my life is ruled by the clock! How did you come up with a routine that works so well for you?

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@deirdrebrownw– I agree with you to do any physical activity in the AM even if you haven't slept that well or don't feel rested. Often times as I was recovering I napped but really didn't feel all that rested. This was after chemo and surgery. Fatigue does take a while to overcome so take advantage of any time you do feel rested.
Another thing that I do after an operation is to stand as straight as I can the first or second time that nurses get me up. It makes subsequent times much easier.
@1nan– How are you feeling now?

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@merpreb

@deirdrebrownw– I agree with you to do any physical activity in the AM even if you haven't slept that well or don't feel rested. Often times as I was recovering I napped but really didn't feel all that rested. This was after chemo and surgery. Fatigue does take a while to overcome so take advantage of any time you do feel rested.
Another thing that I do after an operation is to stand as straight as I can the first or second time that nurses get me up. It makes subsequent times much easier.
@1nan– How are you feeling now?

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Hi Merry. This has been the toughest thing I have had to deal with yet. Of the 3 prior cervical spinal fusions, one totally broke loose from poor bone quality and the cord was severely compromised. The second prior fusion had to be removed, and two surgeries, anterior and posterior, a week apart, resulted in fusions C2 to T2 and discectomy at C7-T1. The 10 inch incision down my back has healed beautifully and pain is getting more tolerable every day. I was off myeloma treatment 7 weeks, started back 2 weeks ago. That has caused some back sliding since I am still healing, but just some exaggerated side effects. I am so blessed that some severe problems were discovered and dealt with and I will come out of this better than before. One miraculous thing is that hard substance had formed on my spinal cord and had to be "chiseled" off the cord!!! This Thanksgiving we have so much that blesses us. I am getting stronger each week and have great hope for Christmas and moving into the new year. Add to that, we will have a new great grandchild in about 3 more weeks. I see lots of rocking and cuddles in my near future. Yes, we are more than blessed, and God has been present every step of the way. Gene, my husband, was my rock through it all. On December 1 we will celebrate our 57th Anniversary, and we couldn't be more grateful. When my Myeloma blood work showed miraculous leaps to remission while I was OFF treatment, I had replay in my head/heart, "Be still and know that I am God". There is nothing more to say. I hope others can find hope in my experience and know that we are never alone. That is the source of my forever peace. Thank you so much for thinking of me and asking. I am slowly following some conversations on Connect and love the work all of you are doing. Nancy

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5CHOP therapy go to play golf and need to sit out every other hole. no energy to work out had 5 of 6 Rxs. Does it get better

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@anacreon

5CHOP therapy go to play golf and need to sit out every other hole. no energy to work out had 5 of 6 Rxs. Does it get better

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@anacreon The fatigue you are experiencing is one of the most difficult side effects of chemotherapy. But I am so glad that you’re still getting out and playing golf. I found this website that may have helpful information. https://www.lymphomation.org/CHOP-tips.htm
Course, you may not have lymphoma, but the information is the same for all cancers and chemos. You get outside and that’s very good, just please practice social distancing. You are in a high risk category. Becky

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@anacreon

5CHOP therapy go to play golf and need to sit out every other hole. no energy to work out had 5 of 6 Rxs. Does it get better

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5CHOP I admire your fortitude as you deal with this very difficult side effect we all deal with. Does it get better? My experience says it changes. You are doing what is necessary to keep strength and stamina at your best at this point in time. With a goal to not lose ground you will realize other things you can do. If we focus on what we can do as you are, the losses seem less. If you call that better you will feel successful. Keep finding the good in what you can do as you accept your changes. That golf effort is more than many of us can do or could have done. Will you check back in with the other successes you see? Nancy

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