A woman napping on the couch with a dog

Fighting the Fatigue

For us blood-cancer patients fatigue can hit pretty hard. It’s like a weight that gets heavier and heavier. I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. I’ve been fighting fatigue ever since.

Much needed rest helps fight fatigue

Taking a rest and just vegging out can be very welcoming. Passively just watching TV, reading a book, or listening to the radio can give us some much-needed relief through a bad bout of fatigue. Napping, sleeping for long stretches, and resting are to be expected while we are dealing with blood cancer.

I realized that fatigue can lead to being a couch potato, for me anyway. There’s an isolation to passively scrolling and binge-watching. That void can feel empty and lonely after a while. Passive activity doesn’t do much to engage the brain, and there’s no real connection to it.

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Combating the side effects of being sedentary

Being sedentary has its own consequences. Can I rest when I need to, but still be active somehow? What can I do?

It’s been over a decade since I was diagnosed with leukemia, and I like to keep things simple. Here’s what I’ve come up with;

  1. Sitting is better than lying down
  2. Standing is better than sitting
  3. Moving is better than standing

Doing small activities while feeling fatiqued

So when the fatigue hits hard I ask myself, do I have to be totally sedentary? I go through the list. Can I sit up rather than lie down? Then maybe I can do a puzzle, a word game, fold laundry, play a video game with friends online, research a favorite topic, knit, paint, color, write … you get the gist.

Maybe being sedentary can involve some activity. As much as we can muster, anyway. When fatigue hits I try to remember to level up if I can. Can I stand? Then maybe I can wash dishes, work on a project, reorganize something.

Sometimes when I am fatigued I have a little bit of energy. I can take care of little things with a little effort. I think about dusting, cleaning a window or a  mirror, or washing my blanket.

It might not be a hike, or even a walk around the block, but doing small things around the house can make everything feel a little better when we need to lie down again.I mean, no small task needs to be totally done to completion. We can get back to it later if we need a break.

Sedentary action

For me, a little movement is better than none at all. Having a project gives me something to get up for and return to later. Sedentary action. That’s the incentive I need.

  • Being sedentary while being active can build connections in a way that a passive activity cannot. I’ve joined cancer support and taken in  zoom meetings while resting. I’ve joined an online activity group, learned new things, and ways of coping. All the while I haven't had to leave the couch.
  • Forums like this one can keep us engaged in a meaningful way. It can give us new ideas and connections, and doesn't have to take up too much time or effort. I’m so grateful to have a connection to fellow blood-cancer patients this way. I don't know anyone like me. I’ve never met anyone with leukemia face to face.
  • To have hobbies, projects, connections that involve creating, sharing and contributing can make fatigue a little more tolerable.  I think that if we can rest and still share, use our skills, and contribute somehow the weight of fatigue is a little easier to bear.
  • Music is always better when danced to. True. Can’t dance on your feet? Ok. Rock in your chair. My grandmother would understand.
  • Thanks so much for reading. Let me know what you think about fatigue in the comments below.

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