Managing Cancer-Related Fatigue
Navigating life with blood cancer can be challenging, especially when you have other co-occurring (also sometimes called comorbid) conditions. Some of these conditions may include issues like hypertension, arthritis, or other forms of cancer. In many cases, a co-occurring condition may be fatigue, sometimes referred to as cancer-related fatigue.
What is fatigue or cancer-related fatigue?
Fatigue or cancer-related fatigue can be described as being different from feeling tired. Instead, it’s described as a feeling of weakness or being completely “wiped out.” Signs of fatigue may include regularly feeling tired no matter how much sleep you’re getting, getting tired easier during an activity that may not have exhausted you before, being too tired to participate in normal activities, and having trouble focusing or physically moving. The cause of fatigue or cancer-related fatigue is not always known. In the case of blood cancer, it may be related to cancer treatments, the cancer itself, or other comorbid issues.1
How common is fatigue with blood cancer?
In 2018, we conducted our Blood Cancer In America survey to understand the issues that individuals with blood cancer have to manage on a regular basis, including fatigue. Nearly 2,600 individuals with blood cancer and their caregivers responded to the survey, which contained questions about treatments, symptoms, quality of life, and more. Over two-thirds of participants said that in the last month they have experienced fatigue. Additionally, of those who have experienced blood cancer symptoms in the last month, over half said that fatigue had the most impact on their daily lives. Fatigue was also commonly reported as the most frustrating symptom to deal with, beating out pain, neuropathy, brain fog, and many more issues.
How to manage fatigue
Managing fatigue can be challenging, especially when the exact cause is unknown. Common tactics used to combat and sometimes even alleviate fatigue include:
Starting an exercise routine (within your limits) and staying active can help improve energy levels. Your doctor or healthcare provider can help you develop an exercise plan that is healthy and attainable for you. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous in order to boost energy. Sometimes, just going for a walk or participating in a leisurely activity can help as well.
Resting when needed
Although staying active can help fight fatigue, it’s also important to take breaks. Fatigue can set in when you’re overdoing things and pushing yourself beyond your limits. You know your body best and know how to listen to it when it needs a rest. Enlisting the help of others on a task or chore that you are unable to do may also allow you to get the rest you need.
Maintaining a routine sleep schedule
Trying to maintain regular sleep habits, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, may help improve your overall energy. Additionally, turning off electronics before bed and sleeping in an area with no distractions or disturbances may also help you maintain a regular rhythm.
Healthily fueling your body
Our body often gets its energy from the foods we eat. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients can help fuel your body to tackle whatever comes next. Drinking plenty of water and cutting back on sugary drinks or alcohol can also help keep your body’s energy up.
Practicing stress relieving techniques
Stress can negatively impact our energy levels. Practicing stress-relieving techniques like meditation, yoga, exercising, seeing a mental health professional, or joining a support group may help alleviate stress and increase energy.
Doing activities you love
Our minds need as much nurturing as our bodies when it comes to fighting fatigue. Participating in activities that bring you joy may help energize your mind, and lead to a decrease in fatigue. Watching a funny movie or favorite TV show, coloring, playing board games, or doing a crafty project are examples of activities that might bring you the joy and happiness you need to keep moving forward.
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