Welcome to Your New Normal. Today we’re going to tackle the topic of managing fatigue during treatment and how you can feel a little more like yourself during this journey.
What causes fatigue?
Did you know that nearly all patients deal with fatigue as a symptom during their cancer treatment? It’s completely normal and is a common symptom during both chemotherapy and radiation. Many factors can contribute to fatigue such as:
• Anemia (low red blood cells)
• A weakened immune system
• Poor nutrition
• Thyroid issues
• Medications that affect energy levels
Managing the Fatigue
One way to manage your fatigue is to choose how you spend your time and energy. During this time, it’s important to let go of things that don’t matter and focus on YOU and how you feel. You can do this by planning out your day to make sure you have time to take short naps or rest between activities. Don’t be resistant to accepting help – delegate chores or take a friend up on their offer to cook dinner for your family. Other tips for upping your energy include:
When you’re tired, exercising probably feels like the last thing you want to do. However, research shows that maintain a regular exercise schedule can decrease fatigue by up to 50 percent. Find that time of day when you’re the least tired and try to move for a little bit. It doesn’t have to be intense, either. A short walk around the block counts! If you’re up to it, lifting light weights will help with muscle strength and gentle yoga can help with flexibility. Exercise can also help elevate your overall mood, too.
A lot of patients don’t want to eat during treatment because they don’t feel like they can tolerate food. But a nutritious diet is key to boosting your energy. A diet high in vegetables, fruits and unprocessed foods can make a huge difference in how you feel. Talk to a nutritionist who can help you find the right foods for you.
Battling cancer can bring an exhausting emotional burden. Reducing your stress, anxiety and depression can make you feel less fatigued. Just talking or listening to others by joining a support group, undergoing counseling or even joining a social network to connect with others in your shoes can make a huge difference. Download a meditation app on your phone to help you relax and make sure to eliminate toxic people from your life.
Sometimes the best medicine is not to think about what you’re going through (if you can!) Distraction through music, a great novel you’ve been meaning to read, binge-watching a new series, visiting with friends or watching a funny movie can all help take your mind to another place. Spending time in nature is great, too. Just sitting by the water or walking through a garden can have a calming impact.
Talk with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Since depression and anxiety can contribute to fatigue, a medication may help. The same goes for anemia and an underactive thyroid. Also, medications you’re currently taking could be contributing to your fatigue. Talk with your doctor and see if a lower dose or a different drug could be an option.
Remember, during this journey, put yourself first. Be your own best friend and keep those who support you close. Life during and after cancer is anything but ordinary and it will take some time to find your new normal. I hope these tools will help you do just that.
OhioHealth’s integrative medicine program offers many options that may help with fatigue, including nutrition counseling and massage to promote relaxation. To learn more, click here.
Dr. Halaharvi is a board-certified general surgeon with over six years of experience. She completed the Breast Surgery Fellowship at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and provides a surgical practice focused on breast care and breast surgery.
Dr. Halaharvi’s interests include teaching, involvement in clinical breast disease research and community outreach activities. She can speak 4 languages which include: English, Hindi, Urdu & Telugu.