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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:

Get moving

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. What is Cancer-Related Fatigue? American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fatigue/what-is-cancer-related-fatigue.html. Published October 22, 2018. Accessed October 22, 2018.

Comments

  • Ann Harper moderator
    5 months ago

    I love all your tips. They are right on. My daughter felt an unbelievable amount of fatigue when she was going through treatments. Getting out and and exercising when she felt up to it really helped her to feel less tired.

  • Nichola75
    6 months ago

    I find fatigue the hardest. Not sure if it’s due to the lymphoma or the emotional stress, and not sleeping properly. It’s a hard one to explain to others as well, especially at work. All teachers are tired and saying I feel more tired feels a little self-indulgent. I agree with all of the
    Above suggestions otherwise you just get stuck in a rut. Some days it easier to get motivated than others but that’s the challenge isn’t it – to keep going and enjoy X

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    6 months ago

    The one thing I’d like to add here is… How many of us make it through fatigue? I know many can relate including myself, but what about many who despite the fatigue can beat it with rapid movement. Let me add even more here… is that a good thing to even push yourself when your middle name is fatigue? We know it’s a given, but is this something we can fight along with our cancer? I’m one of those pushers at times, but I”m not sure if that is a good thing for the body. Hum…

  • bluchs
    6 months ago

    Fighting this fatigue is very difficult!
    Plus, like this ( very good and incisive article states )
    I am also dealing with degenerative multilevel spinal, and bone loss disease.
    Plus severe anxiety and stress?
    Both physical and mental pain effect my every day life.
    Opioids, both help and hurt?
    I can’t seem to live without them, but I wish I could?
    I can’t do all of the activities that I used to do, and loved to do.
    But I am now finding new things to do, that I actually like, and can do ( like drafting, making blue prints etc. )
    I am doing the whole new diet and exercise thing, and Yes it helps.
    So managing my fatigue and pain, are actually, starting to get a bit easier.
    I appreciate all I have, and I am still learning here at this web site.
    Thank You!

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