Coping with fatigue

Fatigue is a very common effect of cancer – and of cancer treatments. It doesn't help that you're probably eating less, you may be experiencing considerable stress and possibly a fair amount of pain, and you may not have enough red blood cells circulating.

Fatigue is usually most noticeable at the beginning and end of a chemotherapy medication treatment cycle, but you may have to deal with it at any time – even people who are not going through chemotherapy can sometimes get very fatigued. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with fatigue and revive your energy.

To increase your energy

Avoid quick fixes like coffee and candy bars – you might get a little burst of energy, but it won't last that long. Deal with fatigue at the source:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Work on relaxation – try to reduce your stress level. Talk to your health professional or a counsellor about stress reduction techniques.
  • Talk to your doctor about doing light exercise. Exercise is good for keeping healthy and lively, and it also helps in dealing with stress. But you need to make sure you don't do too much.
  • If you are fatigued because you don't have enough red blood cells circulating (a condition known as anemia), talk to your doctor about your options for dealing with it. Treatment options range from increasing the iron in your diet to taking medication to blood replacement or transfusion.

To cope with fatigue

You may not be able to avoid feeling tired some of the time. So be kind to yourself – don't make yourself even more tired than you already are. Give yourself a break.

  • Don't go, go, go – instead, pause, pause, pause. Stop every so often during the day to take a break, have a nap, read a book or magazine, or just sit in the park or in a comfortable chair.
  • Prioritize. Do the important things first, and get around to the rest when you're less tired.
  • Get a little help. Ask your family and friends to help you with chores and errands such as shopping and cleaning. If you have children, get family members to look after them every so often.

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