One of the most common side effects of cancer treatment is feeling fatigued. Fatigue arises because your body is working hard to fight off cancer cells and rebuild healthy cells, which takes a massive amount of energy. The cancer journey can affect patients both physically and emotionally, as they add doctor appointments and treatments into their daily life and digest new information, while balancing the demands of their normal routine.
Indicators of fatigue include: feeling tired all day, feeling more tired than usual after a normal activity or after no activity at all, arms and legs feeling heavy or hard to move, feeling weak, becoming easily confused or difficulty concentrating.
How do you cope with or combat fatigue?
JaLisa Boyd and Katie Narvarte, members of the survivorship navigation team for the HCA/Sarah Cannon North Texas Division, share their insight.
“It is helpful to plan and prioritize your day each morning, including time for naps and time to get ready, giving yourself extra blocks of time for activities that may not have previously taken you as much time”, said JaLisa.
Katie also added that while feeling fatigued, it is important to continue being active so that your body is not able to slip into a lethargic state.
“Staying active can significantly help during the cancer journey if the patient is able”, she said. “I encourage my patients to save up their energy for priority activities in their life, taking note of the activities that trigger fatigue and making adjustments in their routines accordingly”.
JaLisa and Katie also suggest choosing activities that are peaceful, which may include meditating, walking, gardening, knitting, or other low impact activities that allow patients to stay active and keep their mind off any worries or concerns.
One of the best ways to help combat fatigue during cancer treatment is to ask for help. Whether it be from a friend, nurse navigator, spouse, relative, or neighbor, your support system wants to help in whatever way they can.
“Fatigue is a cycle and it doesn't get better if you don't acknowledge it”, says Katie. “I encourage my patients to reach out to the people who have offered to support them in their journey. Many patients join local support groups, or even send out a weekly email blast to friends, family and neighbors to let them know where they need help in the upcoming week”.
“Cancer patients are fighters- they won't let cancer beat them, and I remind them not to let fatigue either”, adds JaLisa.