Is there such a thing as cancer fatigue? Recently I was asked if I thought cancer causes tiredness and fatigue – a question I often asked myself during two primary cancer surgeries, treatments and related concerns over the past seven years.
The two main causes of tiredness and sometimes extreme fatigue beside the disease itself ~were I believe:
- Firstly, emotional stress in all that is involved with the disease from the shock of being told you have cancer and need surgery and all that implies from a myriad of tests to treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, their side effects and ultimately a diagnosis and prognosis.
- Secondly, physical pain can be devastating depending on your age and condition of health. The surgery and treatment themselves can be exhausting and painful with personal differing lengths of time for recovery. A long-term side effect of surgery and treatment may be chronic pain.
- All these things can cause tiredness and extreme fatigue.
I would like to point out that tiredness is part of what I believe most cancer patients deal with at one time or another. Fatigue is harder to explain but for me it was more of an uncontrollable full body, mental and physical tiredness which often happened suddenly and this I found very frustrating as it is so debilitating.
Other possible causes of Cancer Fatigue
- It is difficult for family to watch those they love suffer and this can create more stress and anxiety for the cancer patient
- The seemingly never-ending amounts of information, learning the new medical terminology, meeting with specialists - all of which is oftentimes hard to understand
- There are many questions which arise about the disease, surgery success, treatment, secondary cancers, etc
- Making life altering and end of life decisions
- A large percentage of cancer survivors suffer from FCR (Fear of Cancer Recurrence)
- Change, often difficult for many of us, will be the new constant in your life in everything from diet to sleep patterns.
Having said these things, your diagnosis is your current reality and the patient needs to do what is required, often less than normal, but your health and well-being is your #1 priority
Relief for Cancer Fatigue
Suggestions from earlier articles:
- As always when you have a concern mention this to your physician and caregivers
- Be checked by your doctor for other health issues as constant fatigue can be indicative of cancer, heart disease, etc
- Have an advocate take notes for you at all medical appointments as this is invaluable as you can focus on your questions and reduce stress
- As always, surround yourself with supportive and positive family and friends
- Loss of “control” can be difficult to deal with so it is important to do everything you can such as :
- Becoming proactive, as best you are able, about your health
- Include more antioxidants (mostly fruit and vegetables) in your diet and decrease your fat intake
- Drink lots of water each day to help flush your system
- Stop smoking
- Cut down or stop alcohol and caffeine consumption ~ at least temporarily
- Exercise even if only for a short walk outside
- If you don't wish to discuss your illness, politely state “it is too difficult to talk about at this time ~ but thank you for your concern”
- You are unique and your journey is not the same as anyone elses and it may take you longer to feel more like your “old self” again
- Take a nap anytime if you need to and,
- Be patient with yourself
When you walk into our home the first thing you see is a mirror with the words "Everyday is a gift" which hopefully reminds us all as we enter in and go out, to be thankful and enjoy each moment we have. A positive attitude, faith and hope are all very important. Hopefully this article will encourage and comfort you. Blessings ~ Liz
Links & References
- January 2016 update: Practical wisdom from Dr. Mike Evans on under-treated Cancer related fatigue
- Causes of fatigue from UK Cancer Research
- Lots of helpful information on cancer fatigue and tiredness
- More information on cancer fatigue
Here are some links to Caramel and Parsley articles you may be interested in if you have cancer:
And finally here are a few "words" (censored) I have heard people, patients, family and friends, used to describe (having) cancer over the years:
Afraid, alone, agitated, anger / angry,
bewildered, confused, courage,
death, determined, dread,
fatigue, fearful, fighter,
hell, hero, hope / hopeful, helpless,
isolated, lonely, lost, mortal, overwhelmed,
pain / painful, passionate,
sad, scared, strength, stressed, sufferer, surreal,
tearful, tired, ugly, unfair, upset,
veteran, warrior, weak, worried,
If you have cancer and if you feel these words apply to you, use them to help others understand how you feel.
There is always something for which to be thankful
~ Charles Dickens