How to conquer chemo fatigue, radiation fatigue and other cancer-related fatigues and boost your energy.
Cancer fatigue hit me out of nowhere. Like a wave, it crashed into me. And as the tide receded, it sucked every ounce of energy from my body. My arms and legs became lead weights. Lifting them required effort I no longer possessed. My aching head felt heavy, making it difficult to form even one coherent thought. I longed to curl up in bed and stay there until I felt normal again.
But of course, I couldn’t. Instead, I needed to find a way to deal with and combat this fatigue.
Cancer-Related fatigue is the most common side effect for anyone undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments. It can also be the most debilitating side effect you experience.
And while we can’t completely eliminate cancer fatigue, there are several ways to beat or lessen it.
Effective Ways to Manage Cancer Fatigue
Here are some effective things you can do to help fight Chemo Fatigue, Radiation Fatigue and other Cancer-Related Fatigues.
Exercise – It may seem counterproductive to exercise when you’re energy level is so low. However, research has shown that light exercise can lessen the effects of fatigue on cancer patients. Make it a habit to exercise for at least 15-minutes each day. It can be a stroll around the block, stretching, yoga, or light aerobics.
Not only will exercise lessen fatigue, but it will also help with other side effects you may experience, such as muscle stiffness and bone pain. Plus, it improves your mood.
Rest – Getting the rest you need during this time is essential. Your body can’t fight fatigue if you don’t allow yourself to rest. Take time to relax your body and your mind. Fit in breaks between activities. Sit down, kick back, and close your eyes for a few minutes. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel afterward.
Sleep – Getting enough sleep during cancer treatment is crucial to your overall physical and mental health. It also helps to reduce and conquer cancer fatigue.
When my son was first born, my mother advised me to sleep when the baby slept. I balked at this idea at first. There was so much to do, and I felt I could only do it when he was asleep. However, I soon realized she was right. I quickly became tired, cranky, and exhausted without the needed sleep.
The same principle applies to those going through breast cancer treatments. Rest when your body says to rest. Take breaks often and allow yourself to get extra sleep whenever you need it. Your body will thank you for it.
If you’re having trouble sleeping check out my post on 20 Simple Tips to Get Your Best Sleep Ever.
Eat Healthy – Food is energy for your body, and you need the energy to fight off your fatigue and cancer. Make sure you get enough of the food and nutrients your body needs daily.
However, eating right can be especially difficult when treatments can alter your tastes or make you nauseous. One way to overcome this is to eat several small, healthy snack-size meals throughout the day rather than three larger ones.
Talk with your oncologist if you’re having trouble getting the food and nutrients your body needs right now. She may be able to give you ideas or connect you with a dietitian who specializes in nutrition for cancer patients.
Stay Hydrated – Drink fluids often. Not getting enough fluids can make you dehydrated, which can cause fatigue. According to experts, your body needs 64 ounces of liquid every day. And while water is an excellent source, juice, broth, milk, and other beverages count too.
And, if you’re experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, remember to increase your fluid intake to compensate for the loss of liquids.
Pay Attention to Your Lab Results – If you’re going through chemotherapy, you probably have your bloodwork done often. Ask to see your lab results or look them up on your patient portal. Look for anywhere your counts are too low or too high. For example, low red blood cell counts (anemia) can increase fatigue.
If any lab results are out of normal range, ask your oncology nurse or oncologist how to improve your bloodwork results.
Try to Reduce Pain – Research shows that intense or chronic pain increases fatigue. If you are experiencing frequent pain, contact your doctor about ways to diminish the pain. If your doctor gives you pain medication, take it at the first sign of discomfort.
Also, your doctor may suggest holistic approaches such as massage or acupuncture to decrease pain. Whatever strategy you use to reduce your physical pain should help improve your level of fatigue.
Try to Limit Stress – If stress can wear us down when we’re healthy. Imagine the toll it can take on our bodies when fighting cancer and fatigue. While it’s impossible to eliminate all stress in your life, you must remove as much as possible. Managing stress is vital to lowering fatigue and increasing your energy.
Beware of Depression – Fatigue can cause depression, and depression can increase fatigue. It’s a vicious cycle. If you are experiencing any signs of depression, contact your oncologist immediately.
Conserve Your Energy – While going through treatments, your energy level will be lower than usual. There’s no way to get around that. However, there are ways to increase your energy by eating healthy, getting lots of rest, exercising, etc.
And you’ll need to conserve your energy. You can do this by prioritizing and simplifying your life, not overdoing yourself, and letting go of less important things to save your energy for what’s important to you.
Remember, you can’t do it all right now. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can do everything you did before you received your cancer diagnosis. Going through treatments is a full-time job, and you must focus on getting well. Don’t try to fit your cancer into your busy schedule, and keep up with everything else. It’s not possible.
Your cancer journey is only for a season. Devote this season to taking care of you so you can heal and be there for others for years to come.
What helps you beat cancer fatigue? Please let us know in the comments below.
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