Woman and her dog laying on a couch

Fighting, and Giving Into, Fatigue

I’m not good at being tired.

As I write this, I’m struggling to stay awake. I have things to do and stories to write, but I can do these things later. There is no reason to resist taking a nap. Yet I’m thinking of going to the local coffee shop to get a cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso, or a coffee with a shot (a red eye).

Worrying that fatigue means relapse

After my stem cell transplants, when I was tired, I worried that I was relapsing. Then I would think of other reasons to be tired and get over it. I know why I’m tired now. I played an hour and a half of doubles tennis today. Yesterday, I got it in my head that I needed to run up and down hills. I ran about four miles.

I was doing it to see how I would fare if I ran the Saint Patrick’s Race again. It’s a hilly 10-K near me, in Holyoke, Mass., that plays a big role in my leukemia story. When I ran it in March, 2003, I was about 10 minutes slower than usual. And I almost fainted at the end.

For at least a couple of months, I had felt sluggish while running. I imagine that leukemia was brewing in February, when I ran a 10-mile race. I remember feeling a little under the weather. I thought I was coming down with something. My mother said not to go. But I had a plan, and I wanted to stick with it.

Fighting fatigue

The people who say I overdo it are probably right. Sometimes my desire to plow ahead has gotten me into trouble. It has led to big falls. But the drive must have something to do with my survival.

The running kept me otherwise strong. And it kept me in touch with my body so that after the Saint Patrick’s race I knew something was wrong and I should go to the doctor. So, I caught the leukemia before the aggressive cancer totally weakened me.

After my transplants, I learned how to modulate – somewhat.

But before, not so much.

If I felt sick, I would ask myself how sick I really was. If I had a fever, I didn’t run. But if I had a cold or anything that wasn’t major, I went ahead and did it. I usually felt better afterwards. Or if not better, no worse for the wear.

Letting myself rest

I’m sure I’m not the only one who identifies with a particular race. But I call the Saint Patrick’s Race “my race.” I’ve run it many times post-cancer. The last time, I wasn’t in the best shape. But true to my nature, I went ahead and did it. And I finished last.

I found this pretty embarrassing. But others said it was impressive. It’s interesting to realize that others see us in a light that’s totally different from how we view ourselves.

Today, I finally had to listen to my body and take a nap. My Labrador retriever was on her side of the couch. I covered up with a soft blanket and listened to her breathing. Giving into fatigue wasn’t such a bad thing.

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