For me, the side effect from all the medications, chemo, radiation, and pain killers has been fatigue. Fatigue is different from being sleepy or tired. It is a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion where you cannot move without great effort, you have to fight at times to stay awake, and your thinking is clouded. It prevents you from not only doing day-to-day activities, it also stops you from being part of life. You miss doing things with your kids. Your date nights stop happening. Your days are spent in bed sleeping off and on for hours at a time losing track of time.
For the past 8 weeks, I have had to be on pain medication to deal with the pain in my shoulder-blade and implant. There are days I am feeling better so I can skip a few doses and remain in the present. But most days I am confined to a couch or bed trying to escape the constant pain through sleep. Next Monday I will finally have this ruptured implant removed and hopefully I won’t be in pain any more.
Cancer sucks, plain and simple. There is not much good about it. The only positive thing is that it has made me realize how precious life is and to live every day to its fullest. I spend more time with my children and I find myself staring at their faces, memorizing eve line and freckle. Cancer fatigue builds up over time due to the effects the treatments have on your body. It gets a bit better once treatment ends, but never completely disappears. As I am typing this now, I am fighting to stay awake. My head bobs up and down as I wake myself up to stay focused. My vision is getting very blurry, and I feel very weak. When I complete this entry, I know I will have to nap again. I will set my alarm, because I have to take my 14 yr old in for her physical. My oldest will drive us since driving has been out of the question.
If you have been recently diagnosed, go easy on yourself. Sleep when you need to. That is when your body heals itself. Try not to forget to eat 6 small meals a day. It is essential to fuel your body so it has the strength to heal itself . Also try to get at least 20 minutes of gentle exercise in each day. Take a walk, heck the weather on the east coast is warm enough, do gentle yoga and stretching, ride a stationary bike, whatever gets you moving will actually lessen the fatigue.
Caregivers, please be patient with your loved one. They aren’t being lazy, they aren’t taking advantage of the situation to sit around and eat bon-bons. They have a disease for which there is no cure. Sure there may be times when they may go into remission and stay there for years, but there is a higher chance that it will be a chronic illness they will fight for the rest of their life. Be patient. They might have planned a great dinner yesterday when they were feeling good, but today they are exhausted and in pain, or nauseous or vomiting, and they couldn’t cook. Have a back up plan for dinners. Prepare a few meals over the weekend to freeze so its easy to just defrost and bake. Pre-cut all the veggies in a dish and put all ingredients in small baggies, then combine in a large bag and label what meal it is. This makes dinner prep so much easier. Be loving and kind. Be empathetic. Be understanding. Your loved one did not choose to have this so don’t blame them for being able to do the things they did before. Give them hugs, hold them, let them know you love them. People with cancer need physical touch. It gives them reassurance that they are still beautiful after surgery has removed part of their body. A massage or back scratch can make them forget their pain because they can focus on something that feels nice instead. Seek out a support group for caregivers. This will allow you to vent your frustrations and fears out of earshot from your loved one. You can have questions answered and gain strength knowing you aren’t alone. Make sure to have a friend or other family member available for times you are not available. Make these decisions now so you aren’t scrambling around when it’s needed.
Fatigue is a tough thing to deal with but with good caregivers, and self-care, and being good to yourself, it is manageable. I wish you nothing but the best on your journey.