Woman sleeping with her head on her laptop

Fatigue, Again? I Thought I Was Done With This

Fatigue. I know, it gets talked about all the time when cancer is the discussion topic du jour. I have even talked about it myself, more than once, but I think it’s time to bring it up again. Why? Well, because it’s reared its ugly head, once again, like a zit that just keeps appearing on the side of your nose even though you’ve used like, every lotion and wash known to man, but it still happens. You know, metaphorically speaking. The point is, here I am again not wanting to get out of bed until noon and it’s awful. So, why is this happening?

That’s the 64-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it? Why? Granted I have a few other health issues underlying that might have contributed to fatigue showing up without an invite to the constant party that is my life, but I suppose that’s the entire point – I can never be sure exactly what’s causing it.

Even hitting the snooze button didn't guarantee my waking up"

Well, I may not know what’s causing the fatigue, but I know why. Making assumptions. Arrogance. The pride before the fall. Yes, folks, I dared to assume that the fatigue caused by my lymphoma was done and gone and would never see the likes of my little life again. I was getting up at a decent hour and going to bed at a less decent hour and still, I was able to function without much going on in the exhaustion department. At first, I was ecstatic that it was happening and cherished every minute. Soon, though, like most things, I began to take it for granted that I’d wake up only slightly fatigued or even, some days, dare I say it – not fatigued at all! Ohh, vanity thy name is Daniel. The hubris of it all! Fate was about to show me why it shouldn’t be messed with and reached out with a big ol’ kick in the karma.

A few weeks back, I started waking up, like normal, and then hitting the snooze button, not like normal. I’m not really a snooze button guy as I don’t think that sleeping for extra time in 7-minute slices punctuated by the screeching sound of an alarm clock is particularly restful or beneficial. If I wanted to sleep later, I’d just set my alarm for later. Now, suddenly, here I am hitting the snooze button for 10, 20, 30 minutes sometimes, and here’s the worst part – even hitting the snooze button didn’t guarantee my waking up. It turns out that most days, I was so tired that I’d sleep right through my second alarm and wake up at 11:30 am instead. One minute I’d look at the clock and it would be 9:30 am, and then I’d close my eyes, just for five minutes mind you – and suddenly and without warning I’d open my eyes again and it would be almost 12 noon. Dammnit! I hate when I sleep so late that it starts to eat into the day.

Why was I so fatigued?

At first, I just thought I’d taken too many pain meds or too much sleeping medicine before bed, but I checked and I was still using the same dumptruck full that I’d always used, so that couldn’t be the reason. Then I thought, “well maybe it’s the weight-gainer shakes I’ve been drinking.” These shakes have a ton of carbs in order to get you up to the 800 calories per scoop that they provide. I tested this theory, though, and even on days I didn’t drink my shake it would still happen. The plot thickens. It was then I considered that maybe, after almost two years, the exhaustion with wanderlust that us cancer patients call fatigue had returned for another bite at the “me” apple. It turned out true, much to my dismay.

I had tempted fate and lost. Battled the forces of destiny and was put down. Locked horns with father time and was cast out of the garden. Sorry to get all epic on you there but the point is, I had actually started to think that my days of fatigue were behind me and that’s exactly when it chose to come and remind me that I was still it’s prisoner.

Fighting the fatigue - again

What happens now? Well, I have to try my best to fight it, again. After the chemo for the lymphoma started, I was pretty exhausted and spent hours in bed. I can’t do that anymore because of two reasons: one, I have work to do, and two: I don’t really have active cancer anymore and I don’t think I can get away with spending all day in bed. If asked, “why are you in bed again today?” I can no longer say, “oh I have cancer” aka “leave me alone and get out of here.” The question is how do you fight something as insidious as fatigue?

The battle this worthy foe there are a few things many of us do. The first is to use stimulants like caffeine and sugar to try to keep the energy levels up. Does it work? Not really, there’s a crash afterward, and drinking tons of coffee every day isn’t exactly great for your heart. Some of us try to get more sleep, and that’s a mixed bag at best. The real trick is to get better quality sleep which requires that you actually stay asleep for eight hours or so. In a row, that is, and for many of us who are up every few hours reading or playing a game or eating midnight pie, sleeping for hours in a row is impossible. The third thing we do is what many of us end up doing – we simply do our best to fight through it by any means possible. Does it work? Some days better than others but for the most part, no, not really. In fact, my eyelids are drooping right now so I guess it’s time to stand up and move around a little.

Remember – fatigue is an insidious foe when you have cancer and you never know when it will darken your doorstep. Even years after. Talk soon.

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