Cancer Fatigue Issues According to Me
In this article I would like to offer some personal views regarding fatigue and cancer. I present this subject here as I believe it is a major issue for any cancer patient. Since my diagnosis in March 2012 (and in hindsight much earlier than then) I had been and still do, experience varying degrees of fatigue over varying periods of time. This personal experience gives me some understanding and experience to be able to discuss fatigue and cancer from my point of view and from other information available.
I bet that if the question was asked of cancer patients ……How do you rate the effects of fatigue on your quality of life??? The replies would almost be a unanimous 10, where 1 would be no effect and 10 the worse. This should not be surprising, as studies have demonstrated that fatigue is a significant issue long into cancer survivorship. Between 70% and 90% of cancer patients will experience cancer fatigue and in some cases prior to diagnosis, then throughout the treatment period and extending into months post treatment. More than 50% of cancer patients will continue to experience fatigue symptoms for many years post curative treatment.
So what is my cancer fatigue like.
Cancer fatigue is very different from the everyday tiredness experienced by most people. I think of cancer fatigue as exhaustion of the body and the mind that is not relieved by sleep or rest. It is caused by both the disease itself when cancer cells produce toxins and by treatments such as drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and the like. As an example of cancer fatigue I will attempt to give a personal view of my experience with this side effect.
There is an old John Denver song I love that just about sums it all up with the lyrics….”Some days are diamonds….Some days are stones.” My fatigue comes and goes with just a few warnings of its arrival and no advice as to how long it will stay on each visit. It tends to hang about for at least a day or two but has been known to settle in for a few weeks. Each fatigue event slowly subsides and there begins a period of recuperation from the effects, a bit like climbing out of a hole in the ground. Then sometimes the fatigue will return before you actually get out of the hole and you tumble back down.
I have discovered a few small warning signs that indicate my bad periods. The return of bad disturbed sleep, a weakness in the legs leading to an increasing difficulty climbing stairs or slopes. These always herald the return of cancer fatigue and back down the hole I go.
- The weakness in the legs slowly spreads to hips, back and arms.
- My IQ seems to dwindle as I become muddle-headed and forgetful. I find it an effort to even talk and when I do sometimes my speech is slurred.
- I find I cannot multi-task, I have to concentrate and focus on one thing at a time.
- I seem to make many mistakes when trying to organise or complete a set task.
- The time it takes me to complete any task is multiplied by ten from normal .
- I become clumsy and accident prone.
- I can become breathless to the point it seems a real effort just to breath.
- I keep my jacket handy as I can feel cold at odd times even though it is summer and I live in the tropics…….Very strange this one.
- I can drop off to sleep at the drop of a hat at any time or any angle, doesn’t matter if I am in the car, sitting at the desk, in a shopping centre or entertaining visitors.
- Everything seems such a huge effort with no relief.
- Negative thoughts increase and I need to monitor these carefully.
So how do I or you manage this side effect of cancer fatigue
Management is the key word here and part of the answer, is to advise your medical team of the problems and symptoms you may have. Some of the tactics I advise are as follows but please remember I am not a doctor so you should seek medical advice:
- I wrote a previous article promoting the regular use of citrus juice and pulp mixed with cold water that I use daily. The citrus juices I recommended were lemons and limes. I still hold the view that this has been extremely beneficial to me personally in keeping my energy levels up.
- Doctors may be able to prescribe drugs to lessen fatigue issues when it is found they are related to a diagnosed causal effect of symptoms, or to lessen the effects of treatment drugs.
- Stay as active as you can and follow some routine daily exercises such as walking.
- Practice good nutrition and a balanced diet. Possibly work with a dietician to achieve this.
- Ask for help in achieving routine chores if you need to.
- Be flexible and set realistic goals.
- Shift your focus from thinking about your fatigue, distract yourself and do something else eg listening to music.
- Consider learning and practicing medication, yoga or tai chi.
“Some days are diamonds……Some days are stones……Some times the hard times won’t leave me alone.
Some times the cold wind, blows a chill through my bones……Some days are diamonds……Some days are stones”.
Lee aka Popeye
Written by Lee
1 December 2013 at 10:30 pm