There are many symptoms that you may experience as a cancer patient that are related to your cancer and to the treatment itself. One very common symptom that many cancer patients experience is fatigue. However, despite being a common symptoms, many patients don't report it to their doctors, and medical professionals often don't focus on this symptom. Take a look at what you should know about coping with cancer fatigue.
What Is Cancer Fatigue?
Cancer fatigue is different from being simply tired or sleepy. It doesn't get better with rest or sleep, and simple tasks, like eating and going to the bathroom, may seem to require extraordinary amounts of effort. You may feel physically weak or have difficulty concentrating or focusing.
These symptoms can last for months or years, even after your cancer treatment is complete. Cancer fatigue can seriously diminish your qualify of life and make it more difficult for you to keep up with your day-to-day routine and even to keep up with your cancer treatment plan. However, there are ways that you can combat cancer fatigue.
Dehydration can trigger or exacerbate fatigue. Cancer patients are at greater risk for dehydration because both the cancer and the treatments can cause vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, infections, or fevers, all of which can cause dehydration.
You may need to increase your water intake. You should talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking each day. If you don't like water or find it hard to drink a lot of water, it may help to choose flavored water or to add some fruit to your glass, like a slice of lemon or lime, to give it some flavor. Other beverages, like juice and milk, can also help keep you hydrated. However, you should avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and high-sodium beverages like soda. All of these can make dehydration worse.
You may not be able to do everything that you used to do during the day, so it's important to prioritize your activities. Focus first on daily living activities, like eating and dressing, and on necessary activities, like doctor's appointments or working if you can't take time off during your cancer treatment.
After the necessary activities, put your focus on activities that help refresh and rejuvenate you. Exercising can help restore your energy levels. Don't worry if you're not able to run a mile or lift weights—even light exercise like yoga can help. You should also be doing things you enjoy, like gardening or cooking or crafting. Enjoyable activities can help you feel refreshed.
Don't feel bad about putting off activities that aren't necessary and that drain your energy levels. You don't have to keep a perfectly clean house or wash your car once a week. Let friends or family help with these tasks as much as possible. Save your energy for truly necessary activities and activities that make you feel better. Give yourself a break on the rest.
Stick to A Schedule
Cancer can throw your ordinary routine entirely out of whack. You may need to take time off work, which can leave you feeling purposeless and bored for much of the day. Or you may need to continue working while also fitting in treatments and doctor's appointments, which can cause you to feel rushed and stressed.
Maintaining a regular routine can help you combat feelings of fatigue. Try to go to bed and get up at the same times every night and day. Eat meals and snacks around the same times each day (try smaller meals more often throughout the day to help keep your energy levels consistent.) If you aren't going to work and don't have anywhere to go, get up and change out of your pajamas anyway. You'll feel more like yourself if you do. Try to schedule your doctor's appointments and treatments at the same time of day and on the same days of the week or month as much as possible. When your body knows what to expect day in and day out, you're less likely to feel fatigued.
Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about fatigue. No symptom is too minor to mention, and extreme fatigue is not at all minor. Your doctor can help you find ways to cope with fatigue that work best for your specific situation. Contact a medical facility that offers cancer care services for additional information.